American Cancer Society Updates Guideline for Diet and Physical Activity

Updated: Sep 20, 2020

The American Cancer Society has updated its guideline on diet and physical activity for cancer prevention. Staying at a healthy weight, staying active throughout life, following a healthy eating pattern, and avoiding or limiting alcohol may greatly reduce a person's lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer. At least 18% of all cancer cases in the US are related to a combination of these factors. These lifestyle habits are the most important behaviors after not smoking that people can control and change to help lower their cancer risk.



The updated guideline reflects the latest evidence published since the last update in 2012. It appears in the American Cancer Society’s peer-reviewed journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

Changes to the guideline include recommendations for getting more physical activity, eating less (or no) processed and red meat, and avoiding alcohol or drinking less. It says:

  • Get to and stay at a healthy body weight throughout life. If you’re overweight or obese, losing even a few pounds can lower your risk for some types of cancer.

  • Adults should get 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or a combination. Getting 300 minutes or even more will give you the most health benefits.

  • Children and teens should get at least 1 hour of moderate or vigorous intensity activity each day.

  • Spend less time sitting or lying down. This includes time looking at your phone, tablet, computer, or TV.

  • Eat a colorful variety of vegetables and fruits, and plenty of whole grains and brown rice.

  • Avoid or limit eating red meats such as beef, pork, and lamb and processed meats such as bacon, sausage, deli meats, and hot dogs.

  • Avoid or limit sugar-sweetened beverages, highly processed foods, and refined grain products.

  • It is best not to drink alcohol. But if you do, women should have no more than 1 drink per day and men should have no more than 2. A drink is 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

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