Eating more ultra-processed foods (UPFs) may be associated with a higher risk of developing mouth, throat and oesophagus cancer.
This is according to a new study led by researchers from the University of Bristol and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
Results from the team’s analyses showed that eating 10% more UPFs is associated with a 23% higher risk of head and neck cancer. It was also linked to a 24% higher risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma.
However, increased body fat only explained a small proportion of the statistical association between UPF consumption and the risk of these upper-aerodigestive tract cancers.
Convenient and cheap
Fernanda Morales-Berstein is a Wellcome Trust PhD student at the University of Bristol and the study’s lead author. She said: ‘UPFs have been associated with excess weight and increased body fat in several observational studies.
‘This makes sense. They are generally tasty, convenient and cheap, favouring the consumption of large portions and an excessive number of calories.
‘However, it was interesting that in our study the link between eating UPFs and upper-aerodigestive tract cancer didn’t seem to be greatly explained by body mass index and waist-to-hip ratio.’
Approach with caution
The authors suggest that other mechanisms could explain the link. This includes additives such as emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners, which have been previously associated with disease risk.
They also suggested that contaminants from food packaging and the manufacturing process may also partly explain the link.
However, Morales-Berstein and colleagues did approach their findings with caution. They suggest that the link between UPF consumption and upper-aerodigestive tract cancers found in the study could be affected by certain types of bias.
Read more articles for Mouth Cancer Action Month 2023:
- Making a difference this Mouth Cancer Action Month
- November: time to take action on mouth cancer
- Spotlight on mouth cancer in care homes.
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