MAY 18, 2017 2:58 PM PDT

A Nutty Diet Fights Colon Cancer Return, Study Suggests

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Earlier this week, scientists in Italy extolled the potential anticancer properties of whole tomatoes. Today, scientists report that colon cancer patients who eat tree nuts have a significantly lower chance of cancer recurrence. These studies underscore the importance of diet and nutrition in preventing and fighting pernicious diseases like cancer.

Image credit: pixabay.com

The current study analyzed questionnaire data from over 800 patients with stage III colon cancer who completed chemotherapy. The researchers were interested in tree nut consumption because previous studies have linked nuts like almonds, walnuts, cashews, and others, with high health benefits.

The results were striking in favor of nuts. Patients who ate two or more ounces of tree nuts decreased their risk of cancer recurrence by 42 percent. In addition, these nut-loving patients had a 57 percent lower risk of dying than patients who didn’t eat nuts. When the researchers honed in to tree nut specifically, the benefits differed marginally: nut-loving patients had a 46 percent decrease in cancer recurrence, and a 53 percent decrease in the risk of death.

Importantly, the nutty health link seem to hold up across factors that could influence cancer recurrence. These include physical attributes like age, gender, and body mass index, as well as genetic mutations. This means the benefits of nuts could likely apply to a wide range of patients. But just make sure tree nuts are consumed, as peanuts and peanut butter didn’t seem to show the same positive anticancer association.

"Basic healthy eating can often be overlooked during cancer treatment. This study shows that something as simple as eating tree nuts may make a difference in a patient's long-term survival," said Daniel F. Hayes, President of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). "Nut consumption and a healthy diet are generally factors that clinicians and patients should perhaps pay attention to as they design the approach to treatment for colorectal cancer."

The study will be presented at the upcoming 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago. In the mean time, Hayes cautions that as promising as the results sound, nuts can’t replace actual chemotherapy treatments. "It should be emphasized that the authors are not suggesting that eating nuts should be considered a substitute for standard chemotherapy and other treatments for colon cancer, which have dramatically improved survival," said Hayes. "Rather, patients with colon cancer should be optimistic, and they should eat a healthy diet, including tree nuts, which may not only keep them healthier, but may also further decrease the chances of the cancer coming back."

Additional source: American Society of Clinical Oncology

About the Author
I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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