What is the role of diet in the etiology of colon cancer?

Updated: Apr 15, 2020
  • Author: Tomislav Dragovich, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Dietary factors are the subject of intense and ongoing investigations. [10] Epidemiologic studies have linked increased risk of colorectal cancer with a diet high in red meat and animal fat, low-fiber diets, and low overall intake of fruits and vegetables. A study by Aune et al found that a high intake of fiber was associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. In particular, cereal fiber and whole grains were found to be effective. [11] A study by Pala et al found that high yogurt intake was also associated with a decreased risk for colorectal cancer. [12]

A cohort study by Tabung et al that followed 121,050 adults for 26 years found that in both men and women, intake of proinflammatory diets (replete in red, processed, and organ meat, for example) was associated with a significantly higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. Risk was especially high in overweight and obese men and, paradoxically, in lean women. Risk was also increased in men and women who do not drink alcohol. [13, 14]

Excessive consumption of beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer. In a study of adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) mutant mice, which are predisposed to develop intestinal tumors, daily administration of 20 g of weight-adjusted HFCS (the equivalent of 1 soda a day) resulted in a substantial increase in in polyps that rapidly developed into advanced, high-grade dysplastic lesions. Carbon labeling showed uptake in fructose within the intestinal tumors themselves. Within the tumors, fructose was converted to fructose-1-phosphate, leading to activation of glycolysis and increased synthesis of fatty acids that support tumor growth. [21]

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