Cancer Council Australia

Annual Review 2015-2016

Nutrition and physical activity

Larger Text Smaller Text Print


Nearly 16,000 cancer cases diagnosed in Australia each year are attributable to overweight, poor nutrition, physical inactivity and excess alcohol consumption. Most could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes.

Cancer Council Australia’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee provides evidence-based advice to inform our advocacy for policy change and programs that will help individuals and communities make lifestyle choices and changes that will reduce their cancer risk.

Evidence-based advice on diet to reduce cancer risk

In October 2015 a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that consuming processed meats (such as bacon, salami and ham) was a cause of bowel cancer and that overconsumption of red meat was probably carcinogenic to humans.

The release of the report generated lots of media reporting and some confusion about the links between red meat consumption and cancer.

Cancer Council clarified the report findings by engaging our scientific adviser and Chair of the International Agency of Research on Cancer working group that developed the report, Professor Bernard Stewart, to explain that the evidence did not support complete abstinence from red meat.

We reiterated our recommendations to limit consumption, given evidence from local data that eating red and processed meats is associated with one in six bowel cancers diagnosed in Australia.

We also emphasised the benefits of a healthy diet including lots of vegetables, fruit and wholegrains to reduce the risk of cancer.

Healthy living after cancer

There is a growing body of evidence that adopting healthy behaviours, including regular physical activity and a nutritious diet, can reduce the chance of a recurrent or new cancer in cancer survivors.

In January 2016 Cancer Councils in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia launched a free program to help cancer survivors get active, eat better and feel better.

The "Healthy Living after Cancer" Program is available to men and women across Australia who have completed treatment (with curative intent) for any type of cancer at any time. Each participant works with a health coach, who provides advice by telephone over a six month period to help them set and reach physical activity and healthy eating goals.

For more information about the Healthy Living after Cancer program call Cancer Council 13 11 20.

Advocacy and policy development

Our Nutrition and Physical Activity Committee promotes and advocates for policy and regulatory change that will reduce cancer risks and provide Australians with reliable and easy-to-understand information to help them make healthy lifestyle choices.

In early 2016, the committee reviewed the growing evidence on the health benefits of a new tax on sugar-sweetened beverages and strengthened its recommendation from "investigating the effectiveness of the tax" to calling for its introduction. Cancer Council Australia will work with our allies to encourage policy change, while continuing to raise community awareness about the role of excess sugar in weight gain and the risk of cancer for people with high body mass.


This page was last updated on: Friday, October 21, 2016