The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for restrictions to be placed on sugar and alcohol because it fears a "tidal wave" of cancer cases is on the horizon.
According to the body, 24 million people will be diagnosed with some form of the illness each year by 2035, with half of that number being preventable.
Chris Wild, director of WHO's International Agency for Research on Cancer, told the BBC a longer life expectancy and population growth are key reasons behind an increase in cancer.
He added: "If we look at the cost of treatment of cancers, it is spiralling out of control, even for the high-income countries. Prevention is absolutely critical and it's been somewhat neglected."
Dr Bernard Stewart from the University of South Wales in Australia, one of the authors of WHO's World Cancer Report 2014, said it is important that people realise prevention is possible.
In his own country, he said skin cancer is a major issue with many people sunbathing until they are "cooked evenly on both sides".
Dr Stewart also said that while people recognise the dangers alcohol has in terms of causing accidents etc, the "burden of disease" is rarely talked about.
"The extent to which we modify the availability of alcohol, the labelling of alcohol, the promotion of alcohol and the price of alcohol - those things should be on the agenda," he added.
The World Cancer Research Fund said too many people see cancer as merely something which happens to people by chance and fail to release that in many cases dietary changes can lower their risk significantly.
A survey of 2,046 people in the UK found that 49 per cent did not know there was a link between cancer and diet, while a third thought the disease was mainly a symptom of family history.