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Thousands of cancer diagnoses related to poor nutrition, reveals study

NEW YORK (CNN) – Your new diet may have more impact on your cancer risk than you think.

According to a study published in the JNCI Cancer Spectrum newspaper on Wednesday, about 80,110 new cases of cancer among people aged 20 and over in the United States were simply attributable to poor nutrition.

"This equates to about 5.2% of all newly diagnosed cases of invasive cancer among American adults in 2015," said Dr. Zhang Fang Fang, an epidemiologist specializing in nutrition and cancer at Tufts University in Boston, who was the first author of the study.

"This proportion is comparable to the proportion of cancer related to alcohol," she said.

The researchers evaluated seven dietary factors: low consumption of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and dairy products and high consumption of processed meats, red meats and sugary drinks, such as sodas.

"Low consumption of whole grains was associated with the highest number of cancers in the United States, followed by low consumption of dairy products, high consumption of processed meat, low consumption of fruits and vegetables, a high consumption of red meat and a high consumption of sugary drinks, "Zhang said.

The study included data on adult dietary intake in the United States between 2013 and 2016, derived from the National Health and Nutrition Survey, as well as data on the number of children in the United States. cancer incidence at the national level in 2015 from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The researchers used a comparative risk assessment model, which consisted of estimating the number of cancer cases associated with unhealthy diet and assessing the extent to which diet could play a role in the burden of cancer in the USA. These estimates were made using regimen-cancer combinations listed in separate studies.

"Previous studies clearly demonstrate that a high consumption of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer and that 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 attributable to poor nutrition at the national level."

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

When the results were examined by diet, the low consumption of whole grains and dairy products and the high consumption of processed meats contributed to the highest burden of cancer.

In addition, researchers found that men aged 45 to 64 and ethnic minorities, including blacks and Hispanics, had the highest proportion of diet-related cancers compared to other groups.

The study had certain limitations, including the fact that the data do not allow to understand how the association between diet and cancer risk can change with the aging of the person.

In addition, further research is needed to determine if a similar association would be created for other years and other periods in the United States.

In total, "diet is one of the few modifiable risk factors for cancer prevention," Zhang said. "These findings underscore the need to reduce the cancer burden and disparities in the United States by improving the consumption of food groups and essential nutrients."

Ultra-processed foods are an increasingly important part of the world's diet. A 2016 study found that 60% of calories in the average American diet came from this type of food, and a study conducted in 2017 showed that they made up half of the Canadian diet. They make up more than 50% of the British diet and more and more developing countries are beginning to eat in this way.

Still, you can protect yourself from cancer by avoiding ultra-processed foods and choosing organic foods instead, according to research.

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

In addition, according to a study published in the same newspaper in February, the risk of premature death was 14% higher, each 10% increase in the amount of ultra-processed foods we consume.

Why do people eat more of these processed foods?

"We live in a fast world and people are looking for practical solutions.We are always short of time," said earlier this year Nurgul Fitzgerald, associate professor in the department of nutrition sciences at Rutgers University.

"People are looking for quick fixes, a quick meal."

For the choice of foods, taste is the # 1 factor for most consumers, but price and convenience are also important. In the case of ultra-processed foods, this convenience factor is "probably the first in the list: ready to eat, ready to eat."

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