By Chelsea Lenge, R.D., and Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
Western Diet Impairs Colon Cancer Survival
In a prospective observational study of 1,009 colon cancer patients, researchers found that survival depended to a great extent on dietary habits. The participants had completed initial cancer treatment. Those who consumed more red and processed meats, sweets, and refined grains were more likely to have a recurrence or die from the disease after a median 5.3-year follow-up, while those who consumed more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and less red and processed meats and refined foods were less likely to experience a recurrence and more likely to survive.
Meyerhardt JA, et al. Association of dietary pattern with cancer recurrence and survival in patients with stage III colon cancer. JAMA. 2007;298:754-764.
Folate Helps Prevent Breast Cancer
Researchers evaluating folate (also called folic acid) intake in 11,699 postmenopausal women from the Malmö Diet and Cancer cohort found that intake of the B vitamin correlated with a lower risk of invasive postmenopausal breast cancer. In the study, women who consumed an average of 456 micrograms of folate per day had a 44 percent lower risk of breast cancer compared with women averaging 160 micrograms per day. Folate plays an important role in DNA synthesis and repair, and evidence suggests that folate deficiency could lead to the development of certain types of cancers. Its name derives from the Latin word “folium” for “leaf” and is most concentrated in green leafy vegetables, beans, peas, and fortified grains.
Ericson U, et al. High folate intake is associated with lower breast cancer incidence in postmenopausal women in the Malmo Diet and Cancer cohort. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007; 86(2):434-443.
Lifelong Vegetarian Diet Reduces Risk of Colorectal Cancer
In a prospective trial evaluating diet and colorectal cancer, researchers from Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India, found that a vegetarian diet was associated with reduced risk of colorectal cancer if started early in life. Investigators used a prospectively created database of 8,877 Indian patients managed in a clinical nutrition service from 2000 through 2005 to measure the association between lifelong vegetarianism and incidence of colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer risk was inversely related to a vegetarian diet and body mass index.
Shastri Y, et al. Lifelong vegetarian diet reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Abstract number 155. Presented at Digestive Diseases Week, 2007, Washington, D.C., May 19-23.
The Cancer Project is a nonprofit PCRM subsidiary that advances cancer prevention and survival through nutrition education and research.