Dietary behaviors related to cancer prevention among pre-adolescents and adolescents: the gap between recommendations and reality

Nutr J. 2011 Jun 1;10:60. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-10-60.


Background: Diet is thought to play an important role in cancer risk. This paper summarizes dietary recommendations for cancer prevention and compares these recommendations to the dietary behaviors of U.S. youth ages 8-18.

Methods: We identified cancer prevention-related dietary recommendations from key health organizations and assessed dietary consumption patterns among youth using published statistics from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the national Youth Risk Behavior Survey, and other supplemental sources.

Results: Cancer prevention guidelines recommend a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, recommend limiting sugary foods and beverages, red and processed meats, sodium, and alcohol, and recommend avoiding foods contaminated with carcinogens. However, youth typically do not meet the daily recommendations for fruit, vegetable, or whole grain consumption and are over-consuming energy-dense, sugary and salty foods.

Conclusions: A large discrepancy exists between expert recommendations about diet and cancer and actual dietary practices among young people and points to the need for more research to better promote the translation of science into practice. Future research should focus on developing and evaluating policies and interventions at the community, state and national levels for aligning the diets of youth with the evolving scientific evidence regarding cancer prevention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Alcohol Drinking
  • Animals
  • Anticarcinogenic Agents / pharmacology
  • Arsenic / analysis
  • Arsenic / toxicity
  • Cattle
  • Child
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Food Contamination / analysis
  • Fruit
  • Guidelines as Topic
  • Humans
  • Meat Products*
  • Mycotoxins / analysis
  • Mycotoxins / toxicity
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Nutrition Surveys*
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • Vegetables


  • Anticarcinogenic Agents
  • Mycotoxins
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary
  • Arsenic