NOV 07, 2017 03:15 PM PST

A Fiber-Rich Diet May Improve Colon Cancer Survival


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A healthy diet full of fiber is important for regularity, but could improve survival from those with early stage colon cancer, suggests a new study.

Colon cancer, also known as colon cancer or bowel cancer, is the third most common non-skin cancer type in the world. The cancer usually begins as small, benign lumps of cells that form polyps in the colon. Without proper removal, these polyps can turn cancerous and cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, weakness, and fatigue. According to a recent report, the incidence of colorectal cancer is expected to increase by 60% to more than 2.2 million new cases and 1.1 million deaths by 2030.

The link between diet and colon cancer has only grown stronger in the past few years. Several recent studies have linked high consumption of red meats and processed foods with increased risks for colon cancer. Other risk factors include being overweight, and alcohol consumption.

In the current study, researchers analyzed 8 years’ worth of data from over 1,500 people who had been diagnosed with stage 1, 2, or 3 colorectal cancer. Data included each person’s total fiber and whole grain intake.

When fiber intake was compared to survival, researchers found an inverse correlation. That is, those who consumed high amounts of fiber had the lowest risk of death from colorectal cancer. In fact, they calculated that for every 5 grams of fiber a patient consumed a day, the risk for direct colorectal cancer death was reduced by 22 percent, and the risk for overall death was lowered by 14 percent.

Furthermore, the type of fiber mattered. Those who got their daily serving of fiber from cereals saw the greatest reduction in colorectal cancer-related mortality risk (33 percent). By contrast, those who relied to vegetables for their daily 5 grams of fiber a day had a 17 percent reduction in risk.

“Higher intake of fiber and whole grains after CRC [colorectal cancer] diagnosis is associated with a lower rate of death from that disease and other causes. Our findings provide support for the nutritional recommendations of maintaining sufficient fiber intake among CRC survivors,” the team concluded.

It’s important to note that the results don’t prove that fiber will lower risk of colorectal cancer death. The study merely found a correlation between the two events.

"Our findings," write the authors, "need to be validated by further studies, including possible clinical trials."

Nevertheless, the results permit a modicum of hope for altering the often grim outcome associated with a colorectal cancer diagnosis.

Additional sources: MNT

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
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