Western diet linked to greater colon cancer recurrence

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Cancer, Colorectal cancer, Diets

The high calorie, low fibre dietary pattern associated with the
Western diet are associated with an increased risk of colorectal
cancer recurrence, says new research from the US.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association​, adds to previous studies on how dietary patterns may influence colorectal cancer, but is said to be the first to consider cancer recurrence. "This is the first study, to our knowledge, in a potentially cured population of colon cancer survivors to address the effect of diet,"​ wrote the authors, led by Jeffrey Meyerhardt, from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston. "The data suggest that a diet characterized by higher intakes of red and processed meats, sweets and desserts, French fries, and refined grains increases the risk of cancer recurrence and decreases survival,"​ they added.​ There are 363,000 new cases of colorectal cancer every year in Europe. The incidence of the cancer is rising, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe. Eighty per cent of colorectal cancers may be preventable by dietary changes. It is also one of the most curable cancers if diagnosis is made early. A recent epidemiological study from researchers at the Institute Gustave Roussy (Inserm, ERI20), linked people with a dietary pattern closely matching the "Western" diet to a significantly increased risk of the cancer (American Journal of Epidemiology​, Vol. 164, pp. 1085-1093). The new study, which looked at dietary patterns on cancer recurrence and survival in a group of 1,009 stage III colon cancer patients (cancer present in the colon and lymph nodes). Dietary patterns, classes as 'prudent' or 'Western' were evaluated using a 131-item semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire (FFQ). The prudent pattern was characterized by high intakes of fruits and vegetables, poultry, and fish; the Western pattern was characterized by high intakes of meat, fat, refined grains, and dessert. During the average follow-up period of 5.3 years, 223 patients died with cancer recurrence out of 324 cases of cancer recurrence. Twenty-eight people died without documented cancer recurrence. The researchers found that a diet with a higher correspondence to the Western dietary pattern after cancer diagnosis were at a significant increase in the risk of cancer recurrence or death. Indeed, the top 20 per cent of people with the greatest Western-style diet were 3.3 times more likely to have cancer recurrence or death that those with least Western-style diet. No significant association was observed between the prudent style diet and cancer recurrence or death, said the researchers. "We cannot completely exclude the possibility that higher intake of a Western dietary pattern may be reflective of other predictors of poor prognosis. However, we did not observe any significant association between diet and predictors associated with cancer recurrence or survival,"​ wrote the researchers. They noted limitations with the study, including the use of the food frequency questionnaire which is subject to recall errors, but they did considered the possibility that sick patients may have altered dietary patterns after diagnosis, which may have made them more or less healthy. The researchers noted that study is ongoing, focusing on the whether specific nutrients or food groupings may strengthen the association between diet and colon cancer recurrence. The Western dietary pattern has also been blamed by some for the obesity epidemic, particularly in children. Indeed, in August US paediatrician Robert Lustig, MD, from the University of California, San Francisco said that the "toxic environment" of Western diets causes hormonal imbalances that encourage overeating. Source: Journal of the American Medical Association​ August 15 2007, Volume 298, Number 7, Pages 754-764 "Association of Dietary Patterns With Cancer Recurrence and Survival in Patients With Stage III Colon Cancer" ​Authors: Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, D. Niedzwiecki, D. Hollis, L.B. Saltz, F.B. Hu, R.J. Mayer, H. Nelson, R. Whittom, A. Hantel, J. Thomas, C.S. Fuchs

Related topics: Science, Cereals and bakery preparations

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