Eating junk food — which scientists often call ultra-processed foods — including sugary drinks, sliced bread, and ready-made meals may be increasing your risk of cancer with every bite.

A new study warns that these foods are generally high in salt, fat, sugar, and contain artificial additives and can also lead to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. They are often cheaper, more convenient to buy, and heavily marketed in comparison to other, healthier options. Now, researchers say they can increase a person’s risk of death from cancer — especially among women.

“The average person in the UK consumes more than half of their daily energy intake from ultra-processed foods. This is exceptionally high and concerning as ultra-processed foods are produced with industrially derived ingredients and often use food additives to adjust color, flavor, consistency, texture, or extend shelf life,” says study first author Dr. Kiara Chang from Imperial College London’s School of Public Health in a media release.


“Our bodies may not react the same way to these ultra-processed ingredients and additives as they do to fresh and nutritious minimally processed foods. However, ultra-processed foods are everywhere and highly marketed with cheap price and attractive packaging to promote consumption. This shows our food environment needs urgent reform to protect the population from ultra-processed foods.”

The researchers used UK Biobank records to gather their data. They studied the diets of 200,000 middle-aged adults, monitoring their health over 10 years and looking at each person’s risk of developing any cancer overall, as well as the specific risk of developing 34 different types of cancer.

The team also looked into the risk of people dying from cancer. The study reveals that the higher consumption of ultra-processed foods displays a connection to a greater risk of developing cancer overall, while putting people more at risk specifically of ovarian and brain cancers. Eating too much junk food also displayed a link to an increased risk of dying from cancer, most notably from ovarian and breast cancers. (READ MORE)