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Fruits, Vegetables, and Colorectal Cancer
Studies have shown that a diet high in fruits and vegetables can help you avoid a number of types of cancers, including oral cancers, skin cancer, and prostate cancer. But the effect of a diet high in fruits or vegetables has not yet conclusively linked to the incidence of colon or rectal cancers.
Bean there, done that!
I have written recently about the positive effects that diet can have on different cancers. We know that people with a normal Body Mass Index have a lower risk of cancer. Studies have also shown a clear link with increased fruit and vegetable intake providing a decrease in the risk of some cancers.
Increased BMI Linked to Increased Risk of Cancer
We know that being overweight puts you at higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke, but a recent study published in the Lancet (2008;371:569-78) makes it clear that overweight and obesity are linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancers, as well.
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Research into the effect of fiber on colon cancer has shown first that more fiber in your diet protects you from colon cancer, then other studies seem to show that it doesn't. Researchers in Arizona (Am J Clin Nutr 2006;83:343-349) recently combined and analyzed the results of two studies to find that the effects of fiber intake appears to be gender-specific (bet you thought the headline was about something else!).
All 3,209 subjects who participated in the two trials had previously had a colorectal adenoma (a benign polyp that can be a precursor to cancer) removed. Subjects received varying levels of fiber supplementation, either with or without additional dietary changes, and at the end of the study, all subjects had another colonoscopy to assess whether a colorectal adenoma had recurred.
The outcome? Men who had the highest fiber intake had the lowest rate of recurrence compared to other men, while fiber intake did not seem to have any significant effect on recurrence in women (although, interestingly, women who were on Hormone Replacement Therapy seemed to fare better than women who were not). The researchers wisely note that colon cancer locations tend to differ between men and women and that further study should not only look at the effect of fiber on tumor location but also that colon cancer studies should more generally be differentiated by sex as well.
Whether or not fiber will protect you from colon cancer, it’s still part of a heart-healthy diet!
First posted: May 23, 2006