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 23, 2019 3:39 AM
Updated: May 23, 2019 3:49 AM

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."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 394569

Reported Deaths: 5243
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah60720847
Washington42359405
Marion40153516
Clackamas33040387
Lane30428361
Jackson25105363
Deschutes23795189
Umatilla15144184
Linn14859183
Douglas13523293
Josephine10278247
Yamhill9840143
Klamath9112149
Polk8325102
Benton615338
Malheur593292
Coos5768109
Columbia438056
Jefferson424366
Lincoln365852
Crook343057
Union340756
Wasco318646
Clatsop263635
Baker221833
Tillamook218046
Hood River216537
Morrow197825
Curry193939
Harney121333
Grant109116
Lake105617
Wallowa76313
Sherman1933
Gilliam1854
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5109348

Reported Deaths: 74802
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles153635127246
San Diego4091824350
Riverside3892365381
San Bernardino3762805983
Orange3352965756
Sacramento1690952452
Kern1582701828
Fresno1574692270
Santa Clara1528571928
Alameda1256281512
San Joaquin1080791835
Ventura1043091192
Contra Costa1042181056
Stanislaus919641429
Tulare867391100
San Francisco57141674
San Mateo56585631
Monterey52842626
Solano47828360
Santa Barbara47523555
Merced45309671
Sonoma43349414
Placer42458473
Imperial38932776
Kings35370367
San Luis Obispo31667360
Madera26388311
Shasta26221461
Butte25608318
Santa Cruz22402224
Yolo21722261
Marin18587249
El Dorado18448168
Sutter14646186
Napa13446106
Yuba1079891
Tehama10316131
Humboldt10294119
Nevada10112105
Mendocino864999
Lassen797656
San Benito787979
Tuolumne778491
Lake7057113
Amador580067
Siskiyou479657
Glenn458536
Calaveras445788
Del Norte377942
Colusa328321
Inyo257346
Plumas19577
Mono19034
Mariposa162218
Trinity100717
Modoc7936
Sierra2190
Unassigned1560
Alpine1080
Out of CA00
Medford
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 42°
Brookings
Mostly Cloudy
47° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 43°
Feels Like: 47°
Crater Lake
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 42°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
42° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 39°
Feels Like: 42°
Klamath Falls
Cloudy
37° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 32°
Feels Like: 37°
Showers ending tonight, valley fog forms
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Monday, December 6th Evening Weather

Image

Two victims identified in fiery plane crash outside Medford Airport Chevrolet

Image

Monday, December 6 afternoon weather

Image

RAW VIDEO: Plane crashes into Medford car lot after takeoff

Image

Pilot dies in Medford plane crash near the Airport Chevrolet on Biddle Road

Image

Monday, December 6 morning weather

Image

Medford Plane Crash

Image

Sunday, December 5th Weather

Image

Sunday, December 5th Weather

Image

Saturday, December 4th Weather