We already know that what we eat has a significant influence on what happens within our bodies. A new study shows that our dietary habits have a more substantial impact on cancer risk than we thought.
The study was published a few days ago in the JNCI Cancer Spectrum. The team that conducted it discovered that in 2015, more than 80,000 cases of cancer among patients 20 or older were attributed to having a poorly structured diet. Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, a nutrition and cancer epidemiologist at the Tufts University in Boston, first author of the study, said that this is about 5.2% of all cancer cases diagnosed in 2015 in the US. The proportion is similar to that of cases of cancers attributed to alcohol abuse.
While performing the study, the team of researchers took in consideration seven main factors:
- Low intake of vegetables
- Low intake of fruits
- Low intake of whole grains
- Moderate consumption of dairy products
- High intake of processed meats
- High intake of red meats
- High intake of sugary beverages
Dietary habits impact cancer risk
Zhang classified the factors based on their effect on cancer risk: “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.”
Researchers used data gathered from several adults in the US between 2013 and 2016. The data was provided by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, along with national cancer incidence in 2015. 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 food may play a role in the US cancer burden. Those estimations were made using diet-cancer associations found in separate studies.
Colorectal cancer was found to be the most related to dietary choices, being profoundly affected by high intake of processed meat and low consumption of whole grains. This type of cancer has a proportion of dietary-related cases of 38.3%.
Of course, more research is needed to determine the exact extent to which diet influences cancer risk.