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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Fruits, Veggies Don’t Cut Colon Cancer

But Cancer Risk Higher Among People With the Lowest Intake of Fruits and Vegetables, Researchers Say
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"People in the highest vs. lowest intake of fruits and vegetables had a 9% lower risk of colon cancer overall, but it did not reach statistical significance," McCullough says.

When the researchers evaluated the association by site of the cancer, they found those who ate the highest amounts had a 26% reduced risk of distal colon cancers. "For proximal colon cancer (the rest of the colon) there was no association," Koushik says. "Even though we saw this [positive] association with distal colon cancer [risk], the differences between distal and proximal were not statistically significant."

The study is published in the Oct. 3 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Second Opinion

The analysis of the 14 studies may have some inherent flaws, says Mansi Shah, RD, a clinical dietitian at the Outpatient Cancer Center at the Samuel Oschin Comprehensive Cancer Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, who reviewed the findings for WebMD.

The diet was self-reported. "People can forget about what they eat, and they can overestimate," Shah says.

Although the link between fruit and vegetable intake and colon cancer was weak, Shah says a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is still recommended for a number of other reasons. Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, she says, may be associated with a healthier diet overall.

"Most people who are consciously eating healthy, eating a lot of fruits and vegetables, are the ones who say they try to limit their intake of fat and refined carbohydrates," she says.

What to Do?

"Continue eating [the recommended] five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day," Shah advises. Doing so will help protect you from heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure, she says.

McCullough and Koushik agree. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables might help people avoid other unhealthy foods known to raise colon cancer risk, says McCullough. Such as? "Red and processed meats are consistently linked with an elevated risk of colon cancer," she says.

In 2007, about 112,340 new cases of colon cancer and 41,420 new cases of rectal cancer are expected in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. An estimated 52,180 deaths from colorectal cancer are expected this year.

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