Stage III colon cancer patients who followed a “Western diet” with emphasis on red meat, fat, refined grains, and dessert were significantly more likely to have their cancer return than those who reported they ate a “prudent diet” with emphasis on higher intakes of fruit and vegetables, poultry, and fish.

Researchers, led by Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, asked patients in both arms of chemotherapy clinical trial to complete diet questionnaires during their treatment and six months afterwards.  Over 130 food items were included along with vitamin and mineral supplements, with space for patients to include foods or supplements not listed.

The foods were correlated as to how much they fit a prudent pattern or a Western pattern of eating.  The completed answers were divided into five groups or quintiles from the most prudent to the most Western.

Patients whose diet most closely resembled the Western pattern and fell into the fifth quintile were nearly four times more likely to have their cancer return or die within three years that those in the first quintile who ate the most prudent pattern foods.

Risk of dying or having cancer return was was 3.91 times higher for Western pattern eaters.  Recurrence risk was 3.14 times higher.

The diet evidence was particularly strong since all patients were enrolled in a clinical trial and consistently received one of two treatments.  There was no statistical difference between disease-free survival or recurrence between the two chemotherapy groups so differences in recurrence could reasonably be assumed to be due to differences in diet pattern.

Further analyses are underway to try to pinpoint what specific foods or food combinations are most responsible for the difference in disease-free and recurrence-free survival.

SOURCE: Abstract #4019 ASCO 2007 Gastrointestinal (Colorectal) Cancer Poster Display/Discussion Session

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One thought on “Diet makes a difference in colon cancer recurrence

  1. When I copied the above article to place on our website, I found a similar announcement from
    August 15, 2007, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association
    where “researchers showed that patients with the highest intake of a Western-pattern diet, characterized by high intakes of red meat, sugar desserts, high fat, and refined grains, have a 3-fold increase in cancer recurrences and mortality”.

    Considering how little effect conventional therapies really offer those of us with cancer (or survivors), adopting a fruit/vegetable-dense nutritional plan makes a lot of sense. There is really no downside to it.

    Many colon cancer survivors tell us they are “limited” in what they can eat due to surgery. And yet these two studies would indicate a BENEFIT not a downside. Shouldn’t we talk to our oncologists about it?

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