High-carb diet may increase colon cancer recurrence risk

November 8, 2012

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute shows that late-stage colon cancer patients may face a higher risk of cancer recurrence or death if they consume a diet rich in carbohydrates.

The role of one’s lifestyle behavior has been shown to play an important role in the development of colorectal cancer. Risk factors, such as obesity and physical activity, have been shown to directly influence insulin levels and recent studies have shown a direct link between host factors that lead to hyperinsulinemia and cancer recurrence and mortality in colorectal cancer survivors. However, the influence of glycemic load and other related dietary intakes have on the survival of colon cancer patients is unknown.

To explore the potential connection between diet and colon cancer survival, the investigators analyzed data from 1,011 stage 3 colon cancer patients. All of the patients had provided detailed information regarding their diet over a six-month period during enrollment in a chemotherapy treatment study, as well as for another six months after that study was completed. After assessing the impact of carbohydrates, fructose (a type of sugar), and glycemic loads and indexes on colon cancer development, the researchers concluded that there was a cancer connection with carbohydrates and glycemic load.

The researchers found that increasing dietary glycemic load and total carbohydrate intake were both linked with increased cancer recurrence and death and survival of the patients had a distinct correlation with overweight and obese patients. “Given that patients who consume high glycemic loads or carbohydrates after cancer diagnosis may have consumed a similar diet before diagnosis, we cannot exclude the possibility that individuals with these dietary exposures acquire tumors that are biologically more aggressive,” said Jeffrey Meyerhardt, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.