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Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Increased Cancer Risk: Study

Ultra-processed foods are making their way into grocery store aisles, and now, a new study conducted by Imperial College London suggests that consuming these foods may increase the risk of developing cancer. The study, published in eClinicalMedicine, analyzed the diets of over 20,000 adults over a 10-year period and found that for every 10 percentage point increase in the amount of ultra-processed food consumed, there was a 2% increase in overall cancer risk, a 19% increase in ovarian cancer risk, a 6% increased risk of dying from any type of cancer, a 16% increased risk of dying from breast cancer and a 30% increased risk of dying from ovarian cancer.

Ultra-processed foods are defined as products made using industrial processing methods and with ingredients you wouldn’t usually find in your home pantry.[0] Examples include pre-packaged snacks and cookies, breakfast cereals, sodas and ready-to-eat microwave meals.[1] They are typically high in salt, sugar and fat, and low in fiber and may contain artificial additives that can be detrimental to health.

The World Health Organisation and the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation have already restricted the consumption of ultra-processed foods, and the Imperial College study adds to the growing evidence that they are likely to negatively impact our health.[2]

It can be a challenge to remove ultra-processed foods entirely from our diets, so the experts suggest minimizing the amount we eat, learning to spot them, trying alternatives and staying away from as many as possible. Additionally, it is important to be aware of the food substances and cosmetic additives that are used to make these foods.

Dr Kiara Chang, one of the authors of the study, recommends clear front-of-pack warning labels for ultra-processed foods to aid consumer choices, and the extension of the sugar tax to cover ultra-processed fizzy drinks, fruit-based and milk-based drinks, as well as other ultra-processed products.[3]

Ultimately, reducing ultra-processed foods as much as possible is a way to move to a healthier and more sustainable diet. With the alarming health risks associated with these foods, it is more important than ever to be aware of what we are consuming and choosing healthier alternatives.

0. “Eating ultra-processed foods can increase your risk of developing cancer” Health shots, 13 Feb. 2023,

1. “Ultra-Processed Foods Linked to Greater Cancer Risk, Study Finds” Moffitt Cancer Center, 14 Feb. 2023,

2. “Eating ultra processed food increases the risk of cancer”, 17 Feb. 2023,

3. “Scientists checked my meals – turns out they're full of hidden junk food. Here's how to spot it” inews, 14 Feb. 2023,

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