Mediterranean Diet and Cancer

Suggestions on how to get started:

  • Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables to get the most nutritional and health benefits. You can do this by ensuring you choose to eat a range of different colours, including greens, red, oranges, yellows and purple to get all the goodness. Examples would be broccoli, bananas, carrots, peppers, and aubergine.
  • Reduce your intake of red meat or processed meats such as bacon, sausages and burgers to 1 to 2 portions a week.
  • Eat 2 to 3 portions of oily fish to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, herring, sardines and mackerel. Wild options are better than farmed fish.
  • Swap simple carbohydrates such as white rice, white bread and pasta for whole-wheat or wholegrain alternatives. This will increase your intake of fiber and help stabilize your blood sugar levels. The types of wholegrain you should add to your diet is; oats, brown rice, buckwheat, whole-wheat couscous and whole-wheat bread are just some examples.
  • Drizzle your salads with extra virgin olive oil, add nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts to your morning smoothies and breakfast bowls.

Mediterranean Diet & Cancer: The Key Points

  • The World Health Organisation stated that cancer is responsible for 10 million deaths per year, with 1 in 6 deaths due to cancer1.
  • 30% of cancers are due to an unhealthy diet, with being overweight or obese responsible for 6.3% of cancers in the UK2. Lifestyle factors including smoking, alcohol consumption and eating a diet high in red meat (or processed meats) can increase your risk of certain cancers such as colorectal cancer.
  • A Mediterranean diet has been shown to have beneficial effects and reduce cancer risk due to the high contents of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients3.
  • The types of foods eaten on a Mediterranean diet include: fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, fish, lean meat, extra virgin olive oil, nuts and seeds. These types of foods contain essential nutrients that fight cell degeneration and proliferation of cancer cells4.
  • The high content in fibre (from wholegrains), essential fatty acids (from fish, nuts, seeds and extra virgin olive oil), polyphenols and phytochemicals (from fruits and vegetables) all interact together to improve your health and reduce the risk of cancer.


    1. Ferlay, J., Soerjomataram, I., Ervik, M., Dikshit, R., Eser, S., Mathers, C., et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No.11.
    2. Brown, K.F., Rumgay, H., Dunlop, C., et al. (2018). “The fraction of cancer attributable to modifiable risk factors in England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and the United Kingdom in 2015.” Nature. 118:1130-1141.
    3. Mentella, M.C., Scaldaferri, F., Ricci, C., Gasbarrini, A.M., and Miggiano, G.A.D. (2019). “Cancer and Mediterranean Diet: A Review.” Nutrients. 11(9): 2059.
    4. Giuliana, T.C.M., Caterina, D.M., Daniela, D.A., and Irene, C. (2017). “Mediterranean Diet and Health Promotion: evidence and current concerns.” Medical Research Archives. 5(7). 1-16.