Obesity, physical activity status and circulating levels of sex steroid hormones and growth factor proteins are intrinsically linked to energy balance. Epidemiological studies have previously reported associations between these factors and the risk of hormone-related cancers such as prostate and breast cancer in men and postmenopausal women. An increasing number of intervention studies in 'at-risk' populations and cancer survivors are now investigating the effects of lifestyle interventions that promote negative energy balance on circulating levels of sex hormones and growth factor proteins as surrogate markers of cancer risk. Evidence from these studies suggests that lifestyle interventions can improve insulin sensitivity, alter the balance of circulating sex steroid hormones and insulin-like growth factor (IGF) axis proteins (including IGF-1 and the IGF binding proteins 1 and 3) and change the functioning of immune cells in peripheral blood. Such changes could influence the risk of developing hormone-related cancers, as well as having the potential to improve disease-free survival in patients recovering from cancer treatment. However, despite promising results, the methodological quality of most intervention studies has been limited due to small subject numbers, lack of adequate control groups or non-randomised designs and the absence of long-term follow-up measures. More intervention studies with randomised controlled designs, higher numbers of subjects and longer-term follow-up measures are needed to establish which combination of specific dietary and physical activity interventions work best for reducing risk in 'at-risk' populations and survivors, optimal dose-response relationships and the magnitude of change in surrogate markers of cancer risk that is required to induce a protective effect.