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A Poor Diet Can Increase the Risk of Cancer—Here's What You Need to Know

We know we shouldn't be eating pizza every day, snacking on chocolate bars, or drinking endless amounts of soda, but nutrition could play a bigger role in our health than many of us realize. A poor diet can result in a number of health complications, including the increased risk of an adult developing cancer, according to a new study published in the JNCI Cancer Spectrum (via CNN).

The study observed how more than 80,000 new cancer cases in 2015, among United States adults (aged 20 and older), could be linked to a poor diet— equivalent to about 5.2 percent of all newly diagnosed, invasive cancer cases in that year.

So, what exactly constitutes a poor diet? We already know that being overweight and obese can significantly increase the risk of cancer, but CNN notes that according to the study, there are seven dietary factors to consider when determining a poor diet. These include not eating enough vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and dairy products, but also a high consumption of red meats, sugar-sweetened drinks, and processed meats.

"Low whole-grain consumption was associated with the largest cancer burden in the U.S, followed by low dairy intake, high processed-meat intake, low vegetable and fruit intake, high red meat intake and high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages," first author of the study, Dr. Fang Fang Zhang, said.

Although the study has some limitations (including the effect of age, and consideration of other time periods), it does suggest that diet can play a significant role in developing cancer, specifically colon and rectal cancers, which CNN notes had the highest proportion of diet-related cases. That said, eating healthy alone is not guaranteed to protect you from developing cancer, and Popular Science reminds us that a good diet is often accompanied by other healthy habits, including regular exercise and potentially better access to healthcare.

Eating well, accompanied by other healthy habits, is not a guaranteed prevention of cancer, but as Popular Science puts it: "good nutrition definitely won't do you any harm..."

[Image via Shutterstock]

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