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Cancer Risk Linked to Highly Processed Foods

Doctors have long advised patients to eat whole grains along with fresh fruits and vegetables as a means to help reduce the risk of cancer. Obesity also causes an increased risk of cancer, and foods that have been highly processed tend to have a lot of calories with little nutritional value. A recent study conducted by researchers located in France and Brazil found that highly processed foods have an increased risk of cancer in addition to being bad from a nutritional standpoint.

The researchers looked at food that was “ultra-processed”, which simply means that it has been heavily processed. They found that a 10% increase in the amount of these ultra-processed foods in the diet would cause a risk of greater than 10% when it came to overall cancer and breast cancer. The research was an ongoing survey of more than 100,000 adults in France. After five years, they found that there were 2,200 cases of cancer within this group.

The researchers said that the study does not definitively prove that the highly processed foods were the cause of the cancer, as many who eat unhealthily also have other dangerous habits, such as smoking, that could increase the risk. They did say that the ultra-processed foods did tend to have higher fat content, saturated fat, added salt and sugar, and a lower amount of fiber and vitamin density. The processing can also create carcinogenic compounds.



Cancer Survivors with a Healthy Lifestyle Live Longer

NBC News reported that cancer patients who followed the American Cancer Society guidelines for a healthy lifestyle were 42 percent less likely to die than cancer patients who did not follow the guidelines. A University of California, San Francisco study found that cancer survivors who maintain “a health body weight, engage in regular physical activity, and eat a diet rich in vegetables and whole grains and low in red meats and processed meats did better and survived longer than those who didn’t.” The study followed and collected data about the diet, weight and exercise of 992 stage 3 colon cancer patients. They began following the patients two months after surgery and they collected data on them for a total of 7 years.

While the research was conducted on colon cancer patients the researchers have stated that the results most likely apply to all cancer survivors. Before the study, only 10 percent of the patients were following the healthy lifestyle guidelines. Out of the patients who did not follow the American Cancer Society guidelines, 35 percent died within the 7 years. Only 10 percent of patients adhering to the guidelines died within the 7-year study. It was also found that patients who ate two servings of tree nuts a week, were far less likely to die within the 7 years of the study.

 



Most Cancer Mutations Are Caused by Random DNA Copying Errors

The Washington Post reports that a new study reveals that “more than two-thirds of cancer causing mutations are the result of random mistakes in DNA replication that occur when normal cells divide.” Humans have more than a trillion cells, which are constantly regenerating to create new cells. The scientists said that each time a cell regenerates, an average of three mistakes occur. Most mistakes will be fine, but some of these mistakes affect genes that will promote cancer.

Due to earlier studies the Hopkins researchers published stating that 40% of cancers can be prevented, they wanted to stress the “bad luck” factor with this study. While maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help to prevent cancer, it is important to remember that a large percentage of cancer mutations will occur regardless of a healthy lifestyle.

Another report from the Los Angeles Times says that investigators found that only 5% of cancer-causing mutations are inherited genetically. The same researchers reported that 29% are linked to environmental factors, such as applying sunscreen and getting vaccinations and the remaining 66% are caused by random errors in DNA transcription.

 



Study: Nearly a Third of All American Cancer Deaths Are Linked to Smoking

There are still 40 million smokers in the U.S., according to researchers from the American Cancer Society. This comes despite the fact that a third of all cancer deaths in the U.S. can be linked back to smoking, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

A third of all cancer deaths in men, and a quarter in women can be linked to cigarette smoking, according to the study. This amounts to 167,000 cancer deaths in the U.S. in 2014 (the year of the study) that can be linked to cigarette smoking.

The study examined cancer deaths state by state. The 10 states with the highest rates of smoking linked back to cancer are in the south, while the lowest rates are in the north or the west.

Research found that the cigarette linked cancer death rate was highest among black men at 35 percent. Among white men it was 30 percent, and 27 percent among Hispanics.

Among women, the highest rate was whites at 21 percent, black women at 19 percent, and 12 percent for Hispanics. The study found widespread shortcomings among the states’ efforts to reduce smoking. CBS, the Los Angeles Times, the AP, and TIME all reported on the study.



It has long been thought that environmental influences and lifestyle choices were risk factors for cancer incidence.  The Los Angeles Times (12/17, Healy) reports on a research study released this past month that confirms such a premise.  The study, published in Nature, indicates that a large majority of cancers are caused by extrinsic factors.  These are external factors such as cigarette smoking, obesity, ultraviolet radiation, and viruses.

This recent study seems to be at odds with controversial research released by a team at John’s Hopkins in January 2015.  That study seemed to indicate that most incidents of cancer were nothing more than bad luck.  As reported by STAT (12/17, Begley), researchers at Hopkins concentrated on intrinsic factors, concluding that two-thirds of cancers are due to cell division errors.

While the two studies seem to come to opposite conclusions, many believe that they both have merit.  In fact, it is possible that external elements can contribute to intrinsic risk factors, such as cell division.   According to a San Diego Union-Tribune (12/17, Fikes) report, the authors of the studies continue to debate their findings on the origins of certain cancers.   It is the opinion of most experts that both intrinsic and external factors play a role in cancer incidence.  Therefore, those patients who control their environmental factors will have a much more positive outcome overall.

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Steven J. Lipsky MD, FACEP has been a Board Certified Emergency Physician in Arizona for the last 37 years, and a resident of the Town of Paradise Valley for the last 37 years. Steve Lipsky on Google Plus[/author_info] [/author]


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