Mediterranean Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Bladder Cancer

New research suggests an inverse relationship exists between following the Mediterranean diet and the incidence of bladder cancer.

Apr. 8, 2019
By Mary West

Recent News

In a pooled analy­sis of 13 stud­ies, researchers exam­ined the rela­tion­ship between the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) and blad­der cancer risk. They found high and medium adher­ence to the eating plan appeared to have a pro­tec­tive effect.

Based on stud­ies that explore how food affects cancer like­li­hood, health orga­ni­za­tions, includ­ing the American Cancer Society, advo­cate fol­low­ing a nutri­tious eating plan. This involves cen­ter­ing the diet on fruits, veg­eta­bles and whole grains while lim­it­ing red meat and processed meat.

The MedDiet is rich in anti-inflam­ma­tory foods, par­tic­u­larly fish, olive oil, fruit and veg­eta­bles. Since cancer growth is accel­er­ated in a pro-inflam­ma­tory state, an anti-inflam­ma­tory diet would help lower the risk.- Michelle Routhenstein, a pre­ven­tive car­di­ol­ogy dietit­ian

However, the spe­cific role of diet in blad­der cancer has not been deter­mined, so sci­en­tists from var­i­ous coun­tries around the globe decided to exam­ine the MedDiet’s impact on the dis­ease.

Earlier research shows the diet lowers the risk of heart dis­ease, Alzheimer’s dis­ease and cancer in gen­eral, as well as reduces levels of LDL, or bad, cho­les­terol.

See more: Health News

The MedDiet is com­prised mainly of plant-based foods of fruits, veg­eta­bles, whole grains, legumes and nuts. Instead of salt, it relies more on spices and herbs for fla­vor­ing; and rather than butter, it involves using the healthy fat of olive oil. The eating plan includes eating fish and poul­try at least twice a week, and it limits red meat con­sump­tion to a few times per month.


Yet the MedDiet is more than a list of dietary inclu­sions and exclu­sions. According to the Mayo Clinic, it is actu­ally a lifestyle that embraces get­ting reg­u­lar exer­cise, enjoy­ing meals with family and friends, and drink­ing red wine in mod­er­a­tion.

In the pooled analy­sis called the Bladder Cancer Epidemiology and Nutritional Determinants (BLEND) study, researchers looked at dietary data from more than 600,000 par­tic­i­pants. Of these indi­vid­u­als, 2,425 received a blad­der cancer diag­no­sis: 1,480 had the non-muscle-inva­sive type, and 945 had the muscle-inva­sive vari­ety.

The par­tic­i­pants were from Denmark, Australia, Spain, France, Greece, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States.


Aside from dietary infor­ma­tion, the data included gender, age, eth­nic­ity, smok­ing status and blad­der cancer pathol­ogy, which denoted whether the malig­nancy was muscle inva­sive or non-muscle inva­sive.

“At present, the better-estab­lished risk fac­tors asso­ci­ated with devel­op­ing blad­der cancer include smok­ing, age, male sex, occu­pa­tion and to a lesser extent obe­sity and phys­i­cal inac­tiv­ity,” the research team wrote. “Since most of the metabo­lites of ingested food come into direct con­tact with the blad­der mucosa, diet might also play a role in the devel­op­ment of blad­der cancer.”


After ana­lyz­ing food intake data, the sci­en­tists cat­e­go­rized par­tic­i­pants into three groups: low‑, medium- and high-adher­ence to the MedDiet.

They found men and former smok­ers had a higher risk of blad­der cancer. In addi­tion, they dis­cov­ered those who in the diet’s medium- and high-adher­ence groups had a lower inci­dence of the cancer com­pared to those in the low-adher­ence group.

“We could not iso­late any par­tic­u­lar sub­group of foods (i.e. fats, alco­hol) from the Mediterranean diet score that pro­vided a greater ben­e­fit over others,” the researchers wrote. “This may be because it describes the over­all effect of the com­bined fac­tors of the dietary pat­tern to be most pro­tec­tive.”

The study was pub­lished in the European Journal of Nutrition.

Michelle Routhenstein, a pre­ven­tive car­di­ol­ogy dietit­ian and owner of Entirely Nourished, told Olive Oil Times how the MedDiet may play a role in cancer pre­ven­tion.

“The MedDiet is rich in anti-inflam­ma­tory foods, par­tic­u­larly fish, olive oil, fruit and veg­eta­bles,” she said. “Since cancer growth is accel­er­ated in a pro-inflam­ma­tory state, an anti-inflam­ma­tory diet would help lower the risk. Moreover, the diet is rich in antiox­i­dants, which quench free rad­i­cals that can turn into cancer growth, thereby help­ing to pre­vent cell muta­tion and cancer devel­op­ment.”