Those snack cakes and chicken nuggets may be tasty, but they may also be upping your chances of cancer, according to a new study out of Sorbonne Paris Cite University. The research published in BMJ looked at the consumption of "ultra-processed" foods—the BBC has a list of edibles most commonly falling into this category, including mass-produced bread, frozen meals, sweets, and sodas—by 105,000 subjects and found that when the percentage of these ultra-processed foods in diets went up by 10%, the number of cancers overall similarly rose, by 12%. Per the Guardian, the rate of breast cancer spiked 11%, while other cancers saw no significant raise. "If confirmed in other populations and settings, these results suggest that the rapidly increasing consumption of ultra-processed foods may drive an increasing burden of cancer in the next decades," the study's authors note.
But that further confirmation is needed, as critics cite caveats for the study's results, including the murkiness of what the term "ultra-processed" actually encompasses, as well as the scientists' inability to totally negate other factors that could contribute to cancer risk, such as lack of activity, smoking, and taking birth control pills. Even experts from Mexico's National Institute of Public Health say in a BMJ editorial on the study that it should be viewed simply as an "initial insight." Still, a spokesman for the UK's National Obesity Forum notes the high levels of fat, salt, and sugar crammed into processed foods in general and thinks people should avoid too much of these foods to begin with. "There is no smoke without fire: We should heed their fears—and read food labels more carefully," he tells the BBC. (Boozing it up may not be the best move if you want to avoid cancer, either.)