Cancer is the second leading cause of death, killing 1 in every 4 people. More than 38% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Now, new research finds more than 5% of all new cancer cases are easily preventable by simply eating healthier foods.
A study, published in JNCI Cancer Spectrum on Wednesday, estimated more than 80,000 cancer diagnoses among adults in the United States in 2015 were directly related to a diet low in whole grains and dairy products and high in processed and red meat. Almost 13,000 of those new cases were also related to obesity, the study found.
The research determined that seven dietary factors, including low intake of vegetables, fruits and whole grains and a high intake of processed meats, red meats and sugary drinks, accounted for 5.2% of all invasive cancers among Americans age 20 and older.
“This proportion is comparable to the proportion of cancer burden attributable to alcohol,” lead study author and Tufts University nutrition and cancer epidemiologist, Dr. Fang Fang Zhang said, according to CNN.
The study reviewed statistics on Americans’ nutrition information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2013 and 2016 and cancer data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among other data.
The research found the largest number of cancer cases related to poor diet were colorectal cancers, followed by cancers of the mouth, pharynx and larynx.
“Previous studies provide strong evidence that a high consumption of processed meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer, and a low consumption of whole grains decreases the risk of colorectal cancer,” Zhang said. “However, our study quantified the number and proportion of new cancer cases that are attributable to poor diet at the national level.”
The study found men between the ages of 45 and 64 and minorities, including non-Hispanic African Americans, Hispanics and others, had the highest risk of diet-related cancers compared to other groups.