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What Doctors Don't Tell You

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March 2018 (Vol. 28 Issue 12)

Processed food raises cancer risk
About the author: 
Bryan Hubbard

Processed food raises cancer risk image

Your cancer risk increases with the amount of processed food—such as bread, cakes, snacks, sweets and sodas—you eat. Eating 10 per cent more of the foods every day raises the chances of developing cancer by 12 per cent, a new study claims.

'Ultra-processed foods' could be another risk for cancer along with smoking and obesity, say researchers from Sorbonne University in Paris.

They came to their verdict after tracking the health and diets of nearly 105,000 men and women with an average age of 43; 18 per cent of the group was regularly eating ultra-processed foods.

During the five years of the study, there were 79 new cases of cancer every year per 10,000 people—so around 830 new cases a year in the study group—and the cases were more likely among those eating processed food. The researchers reckoned that a 10 per cent increase in the amount of processed food being eaten would lead to nine extra cases of cancer per 10,000 people each year, or a 12 per cent raised risk.

Processed foods are high in sugars, and in cancer-causing chemicals that are generated in the heat-treatment processes in their manufacture.

The researchers accept that in large population studies, it's hard to prove a direct-line cause, especially as other factors—such as smoking and lack of exercise—could be playing a part.


(Source: BMJ, 2018; 360: k322)

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