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Your Food and Your Colon

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do something to reduce your risk of colon cancer? A recent study published in the March 9, 2015 online edition of JAMA Internal Medicine indicates that a vegetarian diet, especially one including fish, can significantly reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

While researchers aren’t able to pinpoint whether eating meat is harmful or if eating vegetables is protective, the study of 77,000 adults shows that a healthy vegetarian diet is associated with a 22 percent lower risk of colon and rectal cancers. The vegetarians also ate less sugar and junk food, and consumed more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts. Participants with the lowest risk—reduced by 43 percent—were pesco-vegetarians, those who also ate fish and shellfish.

Dr. Michael Orlich, the study’s lead researcher, recommended dietary changes as a means of primary prevention, in addition to cancer screening such as colonoscopy. Other healthy behaviors are exercising and not smoking. In the United States, colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death. However, incidences of colorectal cancer have decreased during the past decade. This reduction has been credited to increased screening and removal of precancerous polyps.

By eating less meat and eating more vegetables, fish, and whole foods, you can reduce your risk of developing colon and rectal cancer. Not ready to become a vegetarian? In this study, semi-vegetarians were 8 percent less likely to have colorectal cancer. The protective link between a vegetarian diet and reduced cancer risk gives us a primary means of prevention that can be used every day.