MAR 13, 2015 2:12 PM PDT

Reduce your risk of colon cancer. Support your local farmers and fishermen.

WRITTEN BY: Robert Woodard

A recent study of the association between vegetarian dietary patterns and colorectal cancers has concluded that vegetarian diets are associated with an overall lower incidence of colorectal cancers. Furthermore, the study showed that vegetarian diets that include fish and other seafood (pesco-vegetarian) have a much lower risk than non-vegetarian diets. These findings may be important for the primary prevention of colorectal cancers.

The study included 77,659 participants whose diets were assessed by a validated food frequency questionnaire that was categorized into one of 4 vegetarian dietary patterns and a non-vegetarian dietary pattern. The vegetarian dietary patterns were: vegan, lacto-ovo vegetarian (included milk and eggs), pesco-vegetarian (included fish) and semi-vegetarian.

The research team, Michael J. Orlich, M.D., Ph.D., of Loma Linda University, California, and coauthors identified 380 cases of colon cancer and 110 cases of rectal cancer among the study participants. According to the study results, vegetarians had a 22% lower risk of colon cancer compared to non-vegetarians. And among the vegetarians:
• Vegans had a 16% lower risk of colon cancer than non-vegetarians
• Lacto-ovo vegetarians had an 18% lower risk of colon cancer than non-vegetarians
• Pesco-vegetarians had a 43% lower risk of colon cancer than non-vegetarians
• Semi-vegetarians had an 8% lower risk of colon cancer than non-vegetarians
These results don't prove or show that eating a vegetarian diet reduces your risk of colon center, but they do show that diet and risk of colon cancer are associated and that a vegetarian who also eats fish and other seafood has a much lower risk than a non-vegetarian.

Of course, there are many factors besides diet that may increase the risk of colon cancer including:
• Hypertension
• Lack of exercise
• Diabetes
• Obesity
• Smoking
• Excess alcohol consumption

Even so, the results of this study strongly suggest that along with other risk factors, a vegetarian diet should be considered carefully when making lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

Source: The JAMA Network
Journal reference: Michael J. Orlich, Pramil N. Singh, Joan Sabaté, Jing Fan, Lars Sveen, Hannelore Bennett, Synnove F. Knutsen, W. Lawrence Beeson, Karen Jaceldo-Siegl, Terry L. Butler, R. Patti Herring, Gary E. Fraser. Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and the Risk of Colorectal Cancers. JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015; DOI: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2015.59
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