Thousands of cancer diagnoses tied to a poor diet, study finds

Your diet may have more impact on your cancer risk than you might think, a new study has found.An estimated 80,110 new cancer cases among adults 20 an...

Posted: May 22, 2019 3:16 PM
Updated: May 22, 2019 5:45 PM

Your diet may have more impact on your cancer risk than you might think, a new study has found.

An estimated 80,110 new cancer cases among adults 20 and older in the United States in 2015 were attributable simply to eating a poor diet, according to the study, published in the JNCI Cancer Spectrum on Wednesday.

'This is equivalent to about 5.2% of all invasive cancer cases newly diagnosed among US adults in 2015,' said Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, a nutrition and cancer epidemiologist at Tufts University in Boston, who was first author of the study.

'This proportion is comparable to the proportion of cancer burden attributable to alcohol,' she said.

The researchers evaluated seven dietary factors: a low intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy products and a high intake of processed meats, red meats and sugary beverages, such as soda.

'Low whole-grain consumption was associated with the largest cancer burden in the US, followed by low dairy intake, high processed-meat intake, low vegetable and fruit intake, high red-meat intake and high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages,' Zhang said.

The study included data on the dietary intake of adults in the United States between 2013 and 2016, which came from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as well as data on national cancer incidence in 2015 from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers used a comparative risk assessment model, which involved estimating the number of cancer cases associated with poor diet and helped evaluate how much diet may play a role in the US cancer burden. Those estimations were made using diet-cancer associations found in separate studies.

'Previous studies provide strong evidence that a high consumption of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer and a low consumption of whole grains decreases the risk of colorectal cancer,' Zhang said. 'However, our study quantified the number and proportion of new cancer cases that are attributable to poor diet at the national level.'

The researchers found that colon and rectal cancers had the highest number and proportion of diet-related cases, at 38.3%.

When the findings were looked at by diet, low consumption of whole grains and dairy products and eating a lot of processed meats contributed to the highest cancer burden.

Also, men 45 to 64 years old and ethnic minorities, including blacks and Hispanics, had the highest proportion of diet-associated cancer burden compared with other groups, the researchers found.

The study had some limitations, including that the data couldn't shed light on how the association between diet and cancer risk may change as a person ages.

Additionally, more research is needed to determine whether a similar association would emerge for other years and time periods in the United States.

All in all, 'diet is among the few modifiable risk factors for cancer prevention,' Zhang said. 'These findings underscore the needs for reducing cancer burden and disparities in the US by improving the intake of key food groups and nutrients.'

Ultraprocessed foods occupy a growing part of the world's diet. A 2016 study found that 60% of the calories in the average American diet come from this kind of food, and a 2017 study found that they make up half of the Canadian diet. They make up more than 50% of the UK diet, and more of the developing world is starting to eat this way.

Yet you may protect yourself from cancer by avoiding ultraprocessed foods and instead choosing organic foods, research has shown.

People who frequently eat organic foods lowered their overall risk of developing cancer, according to a study published last year in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Specifically, those who primarily ate organic foods were more likely to ward off non-Hodgkin lymphoma and postmenopausal breast cancer than those who rarely or never ate organic foods.

Additionally, according to a study published in the same journal in February, we face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat.

Why are people eating more of these processed foods?

'We are living in a fast world, and people are looking for convenient solutions. We are always stretched for time,' Nurgul Fitzgerald, an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Rutgers University, said earlier this year.

'People are looking for quick solutions, a quickly made meal.'

When selecting food, taste is the No. 1 factor for most consumers, she said, but price and convenience are also important, and with ultraprocessed foods, that convenience factor is 'probably top of the list: grab and go, ready to eat.'

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 749097

Reported Deaths: 13745
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1030271775
Lake554211006
Allen41613691
St. Joseph36933564
Hamilton36505416
Elkhart29347459
Tippecanoe22849225
Vanderburgh22540400
Porter19313325
Johnson18386387
Hendricks17583317
Clark13190193
Madison13111344
Vigo12602253
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Monroe12152175
Delaware10947197
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Hancock8541144
Bartholomew8158157
Warrick7854156
Floyd7763180
Grant7227179
Wayne7154201
Boone6911103
Morgan6735141
Dubois6211118
Marshall6205116
Cass5989108
Henry5893108
Dearborn588878
Noble579786
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Lawrence4727121
Gibson444093
Harrison440473
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Steuben398659
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Ohio57811
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Ohio Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 1106796

Reported Deaths: 20091
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1284601459
Cuyahoga1155792204
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Montgomery524631040
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Butler38886603
Stark33275929
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Delaware18815135
Licking16643222
Fairfield16552204
Trumbull16520479
Medina15592270
Greene15246246
Clark14216306
Wood13276197
Portage13226214
Allen11904239
Richland11596211
Miami10832223
Wayne9112222
Columbiana9016230
Muskingum8889135
Pickaway8646122
Marion8633138
Tuscarawas8633247
Erie8049164
Ashtabula7136179
Hancock6995131
Ross6932161
Geauga6831150
Scioto6525104
Belmont6148174
Union583549
Lawrence5722102
Jefferson5669158
Huron5539122
Sandusky5433125
Darke5414129
Seneca5342126
Washington5307109
Athens523360
Auglaize501587
Mercer487385
Shelby476195
Knox4567112
Madison443665
Ashland435097
Putnam4333103
Fulton431871
Defiance431798
Crawford4031110
Brown401861
Logan387177
Preble3847103
Clinton378166
Ottawa372581
Highland359165
Williams347578
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Guernsey324153
Jackson317254
Perry297150
Morrow291240
Fayette285450
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Henry273267
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Coshocton268359
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Adams242856
Pike242735
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Wyandot234556
Hocking220062
Carroll196648
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Monroe136144
Noble135739
Harrison113638
Morgan109624
Vinton85417
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