Diet and Colorectal Cancer

January 22, 2018 by S P

Amazing long-term study looking at data for 121,050 adults over 26 years was just published showing that dietary inflammation increases risk of colorectal cancer.

Bottom Line:

An anti-inflammatory diet lowers your risk of colorectal cancer.  This includes taking your multivitamins, vitamin D, Calcium, fiber, maintaining a healthy weight, drinking some alcohol (if you want – in moderation), avoiding smoking and taking a baby aspirin (if indicated by your PCP).

If you need help getting started, also read my gluten-free page and think about the Arbonne-30-clean eating program to help you reset your diet habits to include daily probiotics, daily fiber, delicious protein shakes with vitamins already mixed in as well as remove gluten from your diet and eat organic to increase your nutrients and decrease your pesticides with recipes and support via a FB group.

Now let’s read about the research….

Article citation:

Fred K. Tabung, MSPH, PhD1,2; Li Liu, MD, PhD1,2,3,4,5; Weike Wang, PhD1,2; et alTeresa T. Fung, PhD1,6; Kana Wu, MD, PhD1; Stephanie A. Smith-Warner, MS, PhD1,2; Yin Cao, MPH, ScD1,7; Frank B. Hu, MD, PhD1,2,8; Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD2,4,9; Charles S. Fuchs, MD, MPH4,8,10; Edward L. Giovannucci, MD, ScD1,2,8  Association of Dietary Inflammatory Potential With Colorectal Cancer Risk in Men and Women.  JAMA Oncol. Published online January 18, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.4844

Patient Population

The adults in the study were from cohort study (46,804 men from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study 1986-2012 and 74,246 women from the Nurses’ Health Study 1984-2012).  Out of this patient population, 2699 incident cases of colorectal cancer were documented out of 2,571,831 person-years of follow-up.  The study was done on well-educated people who know what to eat.


“Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States.  Inflammation plays an important role in cancer development, including colorectal cancer.”  Other background information presented states obesity leads to low-grade chronic inflammation in the body.  Chronic inflammation can lead to insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia, also associated with an increased risk.  It’s a feedback loop we have to break!

The food they studied

They looked at 18 food groups and circulating biomarkers of inflammation and food questionnaires.  The food groups were processed meat, red meat, organ meat, fish (other than dark-meat fish), other vegetables (other than green leafy veg and dark yellow veg), refined grains, high-energy beverages (cola, fruit drinks), low-energy beverages (low-energy cola), tomatoes were all positively correlated with inflammatory markers and beer, wine, tea, coffee, dark yellow vegetables (carrots, squash, sweet potatoes), green leafy vegetables, snacks, fruit juice and pizza were inversely related to inflammatory markers.

How they scored the results

EDIP (empirical dietary inflammatory pattern) was developed to score the inflammatory potential of whole diets.  The more negative the score, the more the anti-inflammatory diet and the more positive, the more pro-inflammatory the diet. Three blood markers of inflammation were found and studied (IL-6, CRP, TNFRSF1B -TNF-α receptor 2).


They divided the patients into quintiles (5 groups) for comparison based on their EDIP scores.

Patient with proinflammatory diets reported lower physical activity, higher BMI (body mass index) and were more likely to have diabetes, less likely to use multivitamins, reported lower intakes of dietary fiber, calcium and whole grains.

For men – colorectal cancer in the lowest risk group (anti-inflammatory diet) was 113 per 100,000 person years versus 151 per 100,000 person years in the highest risk group (pro-inflammatory diets).  Diet seems to be much more of a significant risk especially in obese men.

For women – colorectal cancer in the lowest risk group (anti-inflammatory diet) was 80 per 100,000 person years versus 92 per 100,000 person years in the highest risk group (pro-inflammatory diets).  The risk seems to be higher in lean women but not in overweight women.

So, a poor diet contributed to 44% higher risk of colorectal cancer in men and 22% higher risk in women!

There was also a higher risk in men and women NOT consuming any alcohol, however high intake of alcohol is associated with a higher risk of all cancers, including colorectal cancer. Everything in moderation!

Check out Table 1 with the details.