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Colorectal cancer: The importance of diet

Published on 24 April 2018  | Download | back to previous


 (click to view the video)Colorectal cancer is quite common, especially among the aging population. An important risk factor for colorectal cancer is diet, and dietary choices are also vital during and after treatment. In this Spotlight, we give you an overview of which diets are best, and which are best avoided.

Colorectal cancer is a type of cancer that affects a person's rectum, colon, or both. This is also known as the large intestine.

According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), 2018 could bring around 97,220 new diagnoses of colon cancer and 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer to the United States.

This type of cancer is more likely to appear in older individuals, but there are many other risk factors associated with its emergence, such as genetic and lifestyle factors.

Of the latter, one of the most cited risk factors is diet — referring specifically to poor dietary habits that often also lead to obesity.

Below, we look at which foods and nutrients have been said to raise the risk of colorectal cancer, and which types of diet have been deemed helpful in its prevention.

We also cover the diets most likely to keep the body resilient during and after treatment for this type of cancer.

Prevention: What to avoid

Numerous studies have indicated that a diet too rich in red meat is associated with a heightened risk of colorectal cancer. "Red meat" is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all mammalian muscle meat, including beef, veal, pork, lamb, mutton, horse, and goat."

A review of the evidence supporting this link notes that "consumption of red meat might be related directly to the incidence of [colorectal cancer] or indirectly because a diet high in meat tends to be low in vegetables, fruit, and fiber."

A study of North Italian populations showed that individuals who eat red meat alongside eggs, cheese, and other fatty foods — as well as refined starches — on a frequent basis had an almost twice higher risk of developing rectal or colon cancer than their peers who favored a plant-based diet.

More recent research also revealed that "a daily increase of 100 [grams] of all meat or red meat is associated with a significant 12–17 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer."

In 2015, a report published by the International Agency for Research on Cancer made the news by pointing out that every 50-gram portion of processed meat, such as bacon or salami, eaten every day increases a person's risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18 percent.

This evidence led the WHO to classify processed meats as "carcinogenic to humans."

The damage caused by unwholesome diets made the headlines again in early 2018, when a study published in The BMJ reported that "ultra-processed foods" might increase the risk of developing various types of cancer.

Click here to read the full article sourced from Medical News Today.


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