According to a new study, men who eat ready-to-eat instant meals – especially those that contain meat – are at a significantly increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Researchers from Harvard University and Tufts University, both located in the Boston, Massachusetts area, found that men who ate the most ultra-processed foods had a 30% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. No correlation was found in women.
Meals containing meat have been shown to be the worst for a person’s health, including meals containing sausages, bacon, ham and fish cakes. A high intake of sugary drinks and sodas also increased a person’s risk of cancer.
Eating processed foods has long been linked to numerous short- and long-term health problems, though these results may be most shocking to those who often opt for fast TV dinners.
Regular consumption of ultra-processed foods can increase a man’s chance of developing colorectal cancer by up to 30%, although no increased risk has been found in women
The researchers, who published their findings Wednesday in BMJ, collected data from more than 200,000 participants over 25 years for the study.
Each was asked how often they ate each of the 130 foods. Participants were placed into quintiles based on how often they consumed ultra-processed products.
Over the 25-year period, 1,294 cases of colorectal cancer were detected among the 46,341 men in the study and 1,922 among the 159,907 women.
A colonoscopy every 10 years could save your life from colorectal cancer
What is a colonoscopy?
A colonoscopy is a test that detects abnormalities and changes in the large intestine and abdomen.
How is it performed?
Patients are either sedated or, in rare cases, given general anesthesia to lessen the pain they feel.
A long flexible tube is inserted into the rectum. A small video camera is attached to the tip so the doctor can see inside the colon.
If necessary, the doctor may remove polyps or other types of abnormal tissue, as well as take tissue samples.
A colonoscopy will usually take about 30 to 60 minutes.
How to prepare the day before a colonoscopy?
Doctors recommend that patients eat low-fiber, easily digestible foods three to four days before the colonoscopy.
The day before the procedure, patients are not allowed to eat anything solid and can only consume clear liquids.
The day before the colonoscopy, patients should take laxatives to ensure that the digestive tract is clear.
When should I have a colonoscopy?
The US Task Force on Preventive Services recommends that all adults between the ages of 45 and 75 be screened for colon cancer.
It is recommended that patients between the ages of 75 and 85 talk to their doctor about when they should have a colonoscopy.
If the colonoscopy finds no signs of cancer, it should be done every 10 years.
Why is it important to get a colonoscopy?
Besides skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women in the United States.
An estimated 104,270 new cases of colon cancer and 45,230 new cases of rectal cancer are expected to be diagnosed in 2021.
It is the third leading cause of cancer death for men and women separately, and the second leading cause of cancer death when men and women are combined with 52,980 deaths expected in 2021.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, American Cancer Society
The huge sample combined with the long time frame makes the researchers more confident in their results than in other cancer studies.
“Cancer takes years, even decades, to develop, and from our epidemiological studies we have shown the potential latency effect – it takes years to see an effect for certain exposures on cancer risk” , said Mingyan Song, co-lead author of the study. and epidimologist at Harvard, in a statement.
“Because of this long process, it is important to have long-term exposure to data to better assess cancer risk.”
In men, they found a clear correlation between people who ate more food and whether they developed the disease.
They focused on meat products in particular, which they also say they expect to enter the study.
“We started by thinking that colorectal cancer might be the most diet-impacted cancer compared to other cancer types,” said study lead author Dr. Lu Wang in a statement.
“Processed meats, most of which fall into the category of ultra-processed foods, are a significant risk factor for colorectal cancer.
“Ultra-processed foods are also high in added sugars and low in fiber, which contribute to weight gain and obesity, and obesity is an established risk factor for colorectal cancer.”
Although the risk factors are known, the stark impact these foods have on a person’s cancer risk is shocking.
Many Americans regularly eat ultra-processed foods because of their convenience. Some are even promoted as healthy alternatives that can help a person lose weight and manage other dietary conditions.
As expected, the researchers also found a strong correlation between the consumption of sugary drinks and cancer.
However, not all processed foods have proven negative. Women who ate processed dairy products actually had a slight decrease in colorectal cancer risk.
“We found an inverse association between ultra-processed dairy products like yogurt and the risk of colorectal cancer in women,” said Fang Fang Zhang, study co-lead author and Harvard cancer epidemiologist, in a statement.
“…Foods like yogurt have the potential to counteract the harmful effects of other types of ultra-processed foods in women.”
A similar correlation was not found among the men in the study, however.
Whether there are real gender differences in how the body processes these foods or whether the researchers are missing other variables remains to be determined.
“Further research will need to determine if there is a true gender difference in the associations, or if the null results in the women in this study were simply due to chance or other uncontrolled confounding factors in the women who mitigated the association,” Song said.
Men who eat ‘ultra-processed’ ready meals are 30 PERCENT more likely to develop colorectal cancer