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Health Team

Fatty Foods Could Boost Colon Cancer Risk

Posted August 14, 2007 4:09 p.m. EDT
Updated August 14, 2007 6:00 p.m. EDT

— A new study has shown a link between diet and colon cancer.

Stage 3 colon cancer patients with high-fat diets were three times more likely to have recurrent cancer – or die – compared to patients who ate less fatty food, according to a study published in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"It's really not increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables, but really trying to reduce the amount of red meat intake and fatty foods and sugary, 'desserty' foods. That seems to be protective for colon cancer recurrences and survival, said Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, an oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the author of the study.

More than 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer annually, meaning cancer is present in the colon and lymph nodes, which increases the risk of recurrence.

Researchers studied eating patterns – Meyerhardt calls the fatty diet a "Western pattern diet" – cancer recurrence and survival among about 1,000 Stage 3 colon cancer patients.

"The biggest surprise (of the study) is actually the impact that a Western pattern diet seems to have," he said.

Cutting back on Western pattern foods is no guarantee of staying cancer free, he said, but improved outcomes are more likely if Stage 3 colon cancer patients eat lots of fish, chicken and brown rice and less red meat.

"To cut down from one steak a week to one steak a month is not a big deal," said John Coughlin, 55, who has been battling Stage 3 cancer for four years.