(Long Island, NY) Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, there is a 1 in 20 chance of developing colorectal cancer during their lifetime. This year in the United States, it is expected that colorectal cancer will cause about 50,000 deaths. A new study says eating a vegetarian diet may reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. The study was published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Researchers at the Loma Linda University in California chose to further study the link between a vegetarian diet and colorectal cancer. There have been a number of previous studies that claim that a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains has been associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Previous studies have also shown that a diet high in red and processed meats raises the risk of colorectal cancer.
The study involved 77,659 men and women who were recruited to the Adventist Health Study 2 between 2002 and 2007. Everyone in the study was required to complete questionnaire about their diet as well as a medical questionnaire. The study participants were followed for about 7.3-years and at the end of the study, 490 participants were diagnosed with colorectal cancer (380 cases were colon cancer and 110 were rectal cancer). The results showed that those who ate a vegetarian diet were at a 22 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer, with a 19 percent reduced risk of colon cancer and a 29 percent reduced risk of rectal cancer, compared with participants who did not consume a vegetarian diet.
The results also depended on the type of vegetarian diet the participants followed. The researchers found that pescovegetarians (who eat fish) had a 49 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer, lacto-ovo vegetarians (who eat milk and eggs) had an 18 percent lower risk, vegans had a 16 percent reduced risk, and semi-vegetarians were 8 percent less likely to develop the disease.
Risk factors for Colorectal Cancer:
- Age 50 and over (90% of new cases occur in people ages 50 and over)
- Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
- People with an immediate family member with a history of colon cancer have 2-3 times the risk of developing colon cancer
- African-Americans have a 20% higher risk of developing colon cancer and a 45% higher mortality rate
- Lifestyle factors – Physical inactivity, a diet low in fruits, vegetables, fiber and high in fat, being overweight or obese, alcohol and tobacco use
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery, and an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team and the chief medical correspondent for am970 in New York City, where he is heard Sundays at 10 a.m.