Poor Diet in U.S. Patients Associated With Many Preventable Cancer Diagnoses

Research published in JNCI Cancer Spectrum found that an estimated 80,110 new cancer cases among U.S. adults 20 years and older in 2015 were attributable to eating a poor diet.

Researchers used a comparative risk assessment model that incorporated nationally representative data on dietary intake, national cancer incidence, and estimated associations of diet with cancer risk from meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies. The study included data on the dietary intake of adults in the United States between 2013 and 2016 from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as well as data on national cancer incidence in 2015 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Researchers estimated the annual number and proportion of new cancer cases attributable to suboptimal intakes of seven dietary factors: a low intake of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products and a high intake of processed meats, red meats, and sugary beverages.

5% of new cancer attributable to poor diet

New cancers that were attributable to diet accounted for 5.2% (95% uncertainty interval [UI], 5.0-5.5) of all new cancer cases in 2015. Of these, 67,488 (95% UI, 63,583-70,978), or 4.4% (95% UI, 4.2-4.6), were attributable to direct associations. In addition, 12,589 (95% UI, 12,156-13,038), or 0.82% (95% UI, 0.79-0.85), were attributable to obesity-related associations.

Colorectal cancer was the most linked to diet (n=52,225), accounting for 38.3% of diet-related cases. The dietary factors that contributed to the highest cancer burden were low consumption of whole grains (n=27,763; 1.8%), low consumption of dairy products (n=17,692; 1.2%), and high intake of processed meats (n=14,524; 1.0%).

Who is impacted the most?

Middle-aged men (45-64 years) and racial and ethnic minorities (non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics, and others) had the highest proportion of diet-associated cancer burden than any other age, sex, or race and ethnicity groups.