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 the 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: 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 high consumption of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer and low consumption of whole grains increases 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.”