Dietary Patterns and Colorectal Cancer in Women.




Archives of Internal Medicine

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Together, colon and rectal cancers (colorectal cancers) are among the most prevalent cancers in the United States.1 Although the exact cause is unknown, there are risk factors that known to increase the chance of developing colorectal cancer. People over the age of 50 have a higher risk of colorectal cancers, but it has also been diagnosed in individuals of all ages. These cancers are more common in people whose diets are high in fat and low in fiber. Family history can also plays an important role. Symptoms of rectal and colon cancer include vomiting, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, and changes in bowel movements, though these symptoms may indicate the presence of illness other than colorectal cancer. Treatments for colorectal cancer are chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and immuno-therapy. These treatments have many side effects, so the best therapy for colorectal cancer is prevention.

A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine examined the potential role of diet in these types of cancers in women. Researchers collected dietary information from women without cancer in 1984. They continued to collect the data on these 76,402 women in 1986, 1990, and 1994. The researchers identified two types of diets, prudent and Western. The prudent diet consisted of high amounts of fruits, vegetables, fish, legumes, and whole grains. The Western diet included high intakes of red meat, processed foods, sugars, and refined grains. After the 12 years of follow, 445 cases of colon cancer and 101 cases of rectal cancer occurred. After adjustments for specific risk factors, the authors concluded that the Western diet was associated with a higher risk of colon cancer when compared to the prudent diet. There was no association found between diet and rectal cancer.2


1. National Cancer Institute, National Institute of Health. Cancer of the colon and the rectum. Aug 1999.