Starchy, high carbohydrate diet associated with recurrence of colon cancer

November 7, 2012, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Colon cancer survivors whose diet is heavy in complex sugars and carbohydrate-rich foods are far more likely to have a recurrence of the disease than are patients who eat a better balance of foods, a new study by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers indicates.

The connection is especially strong in patients who are overweight or obese, the authors write. More than 1,000 patients with advanced (stage III) participated in the study, one of the first to examine how diet can affect the chances that the disease will recur. The findings are being published online by the and will appear later in the journal's print edition.

Although the results point to a potential hazard, for colon cancer patients, of a , the take-home message is not a conclusive "Eat less sugar," said lead author Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH. "Our study certainly supports the idea that diet can impact the progression of colon cancer, and that patients and their doctors should consider this when making post-treatment plans. But further research is needed to confirm our findings."

Recent studies have shown that colorectal cancer survivors whose diet and lead to excess amounts of insulin in the blood have a higher risk of and death from the disease. High can be produced by eating too many starchy and sugar-laden foods. In a previous study of advanced-stage colon cancer patients, Meyerhardt and his colleagues found that those with a typical "Western" diet—marked by high intakes of meat, fat, , and sugar desserts—were three times more likely to have a cancer recurrence than those whose diets were least Western. The new study was conducted to explore which component of the is most responsible for the increased risk of recurrence.

The study involved 1,011 colon cancer patients who had undergone surgery and participated in a National Cancer Institute-sponsored Cancer and Leukemia Group B clinical trial of follow-up chemotherapy for their disease. Participants reported their dietary intake during and six months after the trial.

Researchers tracked the patients' total carbohydrates, as well as their glycemic index (a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular food), and glycemic load (which takes into account the amount of a carbohydrate actually consumed), and looked for a statistical connection between these measures and the recurrence of colon cancer.

They found that participants with the highest dietary levels of glycemic load and carbohydrate intake had an 80 percent increased risk of colon cancer recurrence or death compared with those who had the lowest levels. Among patients who were overweight or obese (had a body mass index above 25 kg/m2), the increase was even greater.

"In light of our and other's research, we theorize that factors including a high glycemic load may stimulate the body's production of insulin," Meyerhardt said. "That, in turn, may increase the proliferation of cells and prevent the natural cell-death process in cancer cells that have metastasized from their original site."

Meyerhardt added that while the study doesn't prove that diets high in glycemic load and carbohydrate intake cause recurrence of colon cancer, the results strongly suggest that such dietary factors play a role. "Our findings may offer useful guidance for and physicians in ways of improving patient survival after treatment."

Explore further: Study shows how high-fat diets increase colon cancer risk

Related Stories

Study shows how high-fat diets increase colon cancer risk

March 7, 2012
Epidemiologists have long warned that, in addition to causing obesity, eating too much fat and sugar puts a person at greater risk for colon cancer. Now, researchers at Temple University have established a link that may explain ...

Starch intake may influence risk for breast cancer recurrence

December 9, 2011
Researchers have linked increased starch intake to a greater risk for breast cancer recurrence, according to results presented at the 2011 CTRC-AACR San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium, held Dec. 6-10, 2011.

A diet rich in slowly digested carbs reduces markers of inflammation in overweight and obese adults

January 11, 2012
Among overweight and obese adults, a diet rich in slowly digested carbohydrates, such as whole grains, legumes and other high-fiber foods, significantly reduces markers of inflammation associated with chronic disease, according ...

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.