August 14, 2007
Western Diet Boosts Colon Cancer Recurrence

Eat less of the bad foods and more of the good foods.

Patients treated for colon cancer who had a diet high in meat, refined grains, fat and desserts had an increased risk of cancer recurrence and death compared with patients who had a diet high in fruits and vegetables, poultry and fish, according to a study in the August 15 issue of JAMA.

But most people really like meat, refined grains, fat, and desserts. What good is this research result when it tells people to ignore their cravings?

Previous research has indicated that diet and other lifestyle factors have a significant influence on the risk of developing colon cancer. However, few studies have assessed the influence of diet on colon cancer recurrence and survival, according to background information in the article.

Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, M.D., M.P.H., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, and colleagues examined the influence of two distinct 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) enrolled in a clinical trial of postoperative chemotherapy in addition to other treatment. Patients reported dietary intake using a food frequency questionnaire during and six months after supplemental chemotherapy. Two major dietary patterns were identified, prudent and Western. 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.

Patients were followed up for cancer recurrence or death. During a median (midpoint) follow-up of 5.3 years, 324 patients had cancer recurrence, 223 patients died with cancer recurrence, and 28 died without documented cancer recurrence.

Recurrence rates are way higher if you eat a bad Western diet.

The researchers found that a higher intake of a Western dietary pattern after cancer diagnosis was associated with a significant increase in the risk of cancer recurrence or death. Compared with patients in the lowest Western dietary pattern quintile (bottom 20 percent), those in the highest quintile (top 20 percent) experienced a 3.3 times higher risk for cancer recurrence or death. Patients in the highest quintile of Western dietary pattern were 2.9 times more likely to have cancer recur than those in the lowest quintile. Similarly, a significantly higher overall risk of death with increasing Western dietary pattern was observed. In contrast, the prudent dietary pattern was not significantly associated with cancer recurrence or death.

Increased insulin production on the Western diet might be the cause of the worse outcome.

A “prudent” pattern characterized by high intakes of fruits and vegetables, poultry, and fish, and a “Western” pattern characterized by high amounts of red and processed meats, sweets and desserts, French fries, and refined grains. Participants didn’t fall neatly into one category or the other, but were scored in each by how closely they matched the Western and prudent models.

The survival benefit for those whose diets least resembled the Western pattern held true even after researchers controlled for factors such as gender, age, body mass, degree of cancer spread to lymph nodes, and physical activity level. Investigators do not know why such a diet is associated with a poorer outcome, but speculate that it may be related to increased insulin levels and insulin-like growth factors. Insulin and related growth factors have been linked to the formation and growth of some types of tumors.

Eat a lower glycemic index diet. Or watch metastatic colon cancer lodge in your bones and cause excruciating pain until you die an emaciated shadow of your former self. Hey, I'm not going to sugar coat the news for you. Doing that would boost your insulin level. I'm trying to write a low insulin blog here.

Fruits and veggies do not lower the rate of recurrence of all types of cancers though. Fruits and veggies failed to lower breast cancer recurrence in a recent study (more here and here).

Share |      Randall Parker, 2007 August 14 11:10 PM  Aging Diet Cancer Studies


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