Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It’s the third most common cancer in both men and women, with approximately 135,000 cases estimated for diagnosis in 2016, with almost 50,000 of those expected to result in death.
The risk of developing colorectal cancer is 4.7 percent for men and 4.4 percent for women and once diagnosed the survival rate over a 5‑year period is approximately 65 percent.
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The Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) and consumption of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) has been shown to be beneficial for numerous cancers including breast cancer, bladder cancer, brain cancer, prostate cancer, and now two recent studies report the MedDiet may play a role in reducing risk of colorectal cancer.
One study published in the Journal of Nutrition, investigated 4 diet quality indexes, the Healthy Eating Index (HEI) 2010, the Alternative HEI (AHEI) 2010, the alternate Mediterranean Diet (aMED) score, and the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Index.
The study used data from the Multiethnic Cohort (MEC), which included more than 215,000 participants from various ethnic backgrounds. The primary outcomes were overall mortality and colorectal cancer-specific incidents.
The results showed that a higher MedDiet score was associated with a lower CC mortality and lower all-cause mortality in women but not in men. Compared to the other diets, the MedDiet was the only diet to be associated with improved colorectal cancer survival. However, the authors suggest the results should be interpreted with caution and that further research is needed.
Then came a study published in British Journal of Cancer, which investigated colorectal cancer risk in Italy, as the authors were interested in assessing risk in a Mediterranean location.
The researchers pooled data from three separate hospital-based case control studies that included a total of 3,745 colorectal cancer incidents compared to 6,804 hospital controls. Food frequency questionnaires were collected and used for this analysis and the authors using the standard MedDiet Score (MDS) to assess adherence to a traditional MedDiet and its relationship to colorectal cancer.
The results revealed that a high adherence to the MedDiet reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 50 percent.
A higher consumption of vegetables, legumes, fish, and monounsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil and a lower consumption of meat were associated with a significantly reduced risk of colorectal cancer. While low consumption of cereals and potatoes, along with high consumption of dairy significantly increased risk.
The authors concluded, “this large study conducted in a Mediterranean region confirms a favorable role of MD on colorectal cancer risk.”