According to the results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a diet high in meat, fat, refined grains, and sweets may increase the risk of cancer recurrence and death among patients with Stage III colon cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. The disease develops in the large intestine, which includes the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) and the rectum (the last several inches).
Although dietary factors such as high red meat consumption have been linked with the development of colorectal cancer, less is known about how diet influences survival following a colorectal cancer diagnosis.
To evaluate the effect of diet on colon cancer recurrence and survival, researchers conducted a study among 1,009 patients who had been treated with surgery and chemotherapy for Stage III colon cancer. Stage III colon cancer refers to cancer that invades one or more of the local lymph nodes but has not spread to distant organs.
The researchers evaluated dietary information provided by the study participants and identified two main dietary patterns: the “Western” diet, characterized by high intake of red and processed meats, refined grains, sweets, high-fat dairy products, and french fries; and the “prudent” diet, characterized by high intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, poultry, and fish.
- Individuals with the highest intake of the Western diet were more than three times more likely to experience a recurrence or death than individuals with the lowest intake.
- There was no link between level of intake of the prudent diet and risk of colon cancer recurrence or death.
This study suggests that diet may influence colon cancer outcomes. Individuals with higher intake of foods such as red meat, refined grains, and sweets had a higher risk of cancer recurrence and worse survival after Stage III colon cancer. Further research is needed to determine which specific components of this dietary pattern have the greatest impact on survival.
Reference: Meyerhardt JA, Niedzwiecki D, Hollis D et al. Association of dietary patterns with cancer recurrence and survival in patients with Stage III colon cancer. JAMA. 2007;298:754-764.
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