More than 80,000 cancer cases in the US were linked to poor diet, or around 5 percent, according to a study published Thursday in the journal JNCI Cancer Spectrum.
The study, conducted by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, analyzed cancer diagnoses among US adults from 2015 along with data from two national surveys on Americans’ diets to determine how many cases were linked to diets low in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and high in processed sugar, sugary beverages and red meats.
The findings are comparable to the number of cancer cases linked to alcohol consumption, which amount to between 4 and 6 percent. Excessive body weight is linked to 7 percent to 8 percent of cases and lack of physical activity is tied to 2 percent to 3 percent.
“Our findings underscore the opportunity to reduce cancer burden and disparities in the United States by improving food intake,” said study author Fang Zhang and cancer and nutrition researcher at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts.
Of all types of cancers, colorectal cancer had the highest link to poor diet. Roughly 38 percent, or 52,000 cases, of colorectal cancer diagnosed in 2015 were diet-related. That compared to around 14,400 cancer cases of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx, 3,165 cases of uterine cancer, and 3,060 cases of post-menopausal breast cancer.
“Our results call for nutrition policies to address the U.S. cancer burden,” said the study authors, who proposed putting government-sponsored warning labels on red meats and other cancer-linked foods.