Which foods contribute to carcinogenesis? Which ones protect against cancer? Read our article and find out!
A recent review of umbrella meta-analyses assessed the strength and validity of data investigating the association between food and nutrient intake and the risk of developing or dying from 11 primary cancers.
Only 10 meta-analyses (the 1.2%) were found to be supported by convincing evidence and represented associations for dietary intakes and risk of colorectal and breast cancer: alcohol, dietary calcium, dairy products, milk and whole grain products.
Specifically, total alcohol consumption was found to be positively associated with the risk of colorectal cancer (with 10g/day increasing the risk by 7%) and identical associations were observed for beer consumption.
Total alcohol consumption (12% risk increase per 10g/day) was found to be associated with the risk of postmenopausal breast cancer among women on hormone therapy as was wine consumption with identical associations for postmenopausal breast cancer in general.
Consumption of dairy products (13% lower risk per 400g/day), milk (6% lower risk per 200g/day), calcium (13% lower risk for high versus low consumption) and wholegrain cereals (16% lower risk per 90g/day) were found to be negatively associated with colorectal cancer risk.
Thirteen meta-analyses (the 1.5%) were found to be supported by strong convincing evidence with most of them again involving alcohol, followed by coffee, fruits and vegetables.
Alcohol consumption was positively associated with different subtypes of breast and colorectal cancer, oesophageal cancer in men (33% risk increase per 10g/day), head and neck cancer (15% risk increase for oral cancer, 18% risk increase for upper digestive tract cancer) and liver cancer mortality (2% risk increase).
Coffee consumption was negatively associated with the risk of liver cancer (15% lower risk per 1 cup/day) and basal cell carcinoma of the skin (5% lower risk), while fruit and vegetable intake was negatively associated with the risk of throat cancer (40% lower risk for high versus low consumption) and oral cancer (32% lower risk for high versus low consumption), respectively.
The remaining meta-analyses were judged to have indicative, weak or non-statistically significant data.
The findings can be quickly summarized with the following figure:
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- Papadimitriou N, Markozannes G, Kanellopoulou A, Critselis E, Alhardan S, Karafousia V, Kasimis JC, Katsaraki C, Papadopoulou A, Zografou M, Lopez DS, Chan DSM, Kyrgiou M, Ntzani E, Cross AJ, Marrone MT, Platz EA, Gunter MJ, Tsilidis KK. An umbrella review of the evidence associating diet and cancer risk at 11 anatomical sites. Nat Commun. 2021 Jul 28;12(1):4579. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-24861-8. PMID: 34321471; PMCID: PMC8319326.