Consumption of ultra-processed foods linked to higher cancer risk

A new study published in the BMJ, has reported an association between comsuming a diet high in utlra-processed foods and a higher overall cancer risk.  The ultra- processed foods, sugary breakfast cereals, pizza, cakes and pre-sliced bread, may increase the risk of cancer.  The results demonstrated that if consumption of ultra-processed foods increased by 10%, was associated with a greater than 10% risk in overall and breast cancer.
During the study:

  • On average, 18% of people’s diet was ultra-processed
  • On average, there were 79 cancers per 10,000 people each year
  • Upping the proportion of processed food by 10% would lead to nine extra cancers per 10,000 people per year

The researchers concluded: “These results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades.”

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The full article is also available to read at the BMJ

Abstract

Objective To assess the prospective associations between consumption of ultra-processed food and risk of cancer.

Design Population based cohort study.

 

Setting and participants
104 980 participants aged at least 18 years (median age 42.8 years) from the French NutriNet-Santé cohort. Dietary intakes were collected using repeated 24 hour dietary records, designed to register participants’ usual consumption for 3300 different food items. These were categorised according to their degree of processing by the NOVA classification.

Main outcome measures Associations between ultra-processed food intake and risk of overall, breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer assessed by multivariable Cox proportional hazard models adjusted for known risk factors.

 

Results Ultra-processed food intake was associated with higher overall cancer risk (n=2228 cases; hazard ratio for a 10% increment in the proportion of ultra-processed food in the diet 1.12 (95% confidence interval 1.06 to 1.18); P for trend<0.001) and breast cancer risk (n=739 cases; hazard ratio 1.11 (1.02 to 1.22); P for trend=0.02). These results remained statistically significant after adjustment for several markers of the nutritional quality of the diet (lipid, sodium, and carbohydrate intakes and/or a Western pattern derived by principal component analysis).

 

Conclusions In this large prospective study, a 10% increase in the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet was associated with a significant increase of greater than 10% in risks of overall and breast cancer. Further studies are needed to better understand the relative effect of the various dimensions of processing (nutritional composition, food additives, contact materials, and neoformed contaminants) in these associations.

Full reference: BMJ 2018; k322
The following news stories may also be of interest:

The Independent Processed food, sugary cereals and sliced bread may contribute to cancer risk, study claims

BBC News Ultra-processed foods ‘linked to cancer’ 

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