‘Ultra-Processed’ Food Leads to 12% Increase in Cancer Risk, Study Finds

'Ultra-Processed' Food Leads to 12% Increase in Cancer Risk, Study Finds
iStock/Igor-Kardasov

New research on cancer and diet habits points to yet more evidence for avoiding ‘ultra-processed’ foods.

A study out of the Universite Sorbonne Paris Cite found that diets high in processed foods — from sugary treats and sodas to processed meats, pre-made meals, to those foods high in refined oils — also had a higher incidence of cancer rates.

The research, published in the recent issue of the British Medical Jourrnal, looked at the dietary habits of more than 100,000 people. The researchers concluded that for every 10 percent increase of processed food in the diet, cancer rates increased by 12 percent.

Nearly 20 percent of the subjects’ diets were made up of processed foods, the researchers noted, finding 79 cancers on average per year per 10,000 people. An increase in processed foods by just ten percent would add nine more cancers annually per 10,000 people. 

While the study cannot conclude that the processed foods conclusively caused the cancers, there was a strong correlation between the foods and the diet. Additionally, the subjects whose diets were dominated by processed foods also had a higher tendency to smoke, be less active, and consume more calories in general.

This is not the first study to find processed foods to be a cancer risk. Specifically, processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. In 2015, the World Health Organization warned against consuming these foods because of their carcinogen risk. Earlier this year two hospitals announced the removal of hot dogs at the urging of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a DC-based group of more than 12,000 doctors.

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.