Diet and Cancer Risk Differ between Races

What you eat can increase your risk for rectal cancer . . . or reduce it.  But race makes a difference too.

Whites had an increased risk of rectal cancer when their diets had lots of refined grains and white potatoes, while African Americans risk was increased with fruit and added sugar.

The North Carolina Colon Cancer Study studied diet patterns and colorectal cancer risk among whites and African Americans with rectal cancer and matched controls.  They identified three major eating patterns and found that risk for rectal cancer differed between the two racial groups.

  • While both groups ate foods in the high fat/meat/potatoes group, only whites had increased risk for rectal cancer when high amounts of these foods were eaten.  Risk was almost doubled for whites who ate mostly high fat foods, meat, and potatoes.
  • For whites eating mostly vegetables, fish, and poultry reduced risk of getting rectal cancer, as did fruit, whole grains, and dairy foods.
  • African Americans had higher risk from legumes and dairy products and lower risk from fruits and vegetables.

Christina Dawn Williams and her team at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill concluded,

Our findings indicate that associations of certain food groups and overall dietary patterns with rectal cancer risk differ between Whites and African-Americans, highlighting the importance of examining diet and cancer relationships in racially diverse populations.

SOURCE: Williams et al., Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention, Volume 18, Number 5, May 2009.

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