The purpose of this article is to give a general overview of the effects of nutrition on the development of cancer as well as part of a therapeutic approach. There is much evidence that diet and lifestyle can alter the risk of cancer development as is the case for many other chronic diseases. This may be through a direct action on the immune system, either by enhancing or suppressing it, as well as on the development of the tumour itself, by modulating gene expression or by antioxidant activity. Protective effects can be achieved by adequate intakes of vitamins A and C, β-carotene, selenium and n-3 fatty acids among others, while negative effects are found mainly with high intakes of n-6 and saturated fatty acids. Weight gain, obesity and lack of regular physical activity have also been associated with an increased risk of cancer. The protective effects are best observed when adequate diet and lifestyle are present together. With respect to the therapeutic role of nutrition in cancer, it has been observed that the use of pre- or post-operative enteral or parenteral nutrition may improve patients' survival rates and quality of life; however, more research is needed in this particular area. Breast, colon, rectum, prostate, stomach and lung are the types of cancer most commonly associated with diet or dietary components.