A diet rich in fibre may lessen the chances of dying from colon cancer
People treated for non-metastatic colon cancer who added 5 grams of fibre to their diet reduced their odds of dying by nearly 25 percent, according to a study by researchers from the department of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
"What you eat after you've been diagnosed may make a difference," said associate professor, Dr Andrew Chan. "There is a possibility that increasing your intake of fibre may actually lower the rate of dying from colon cancer and maybe even other causes."
Chan cautioned, however, that the study does not prove that the additional fibre caused people to live longer, only that the two were associated.
Fibre has been linked to better insulin control and less inflammation, which may account for better survival, he suggested. In addition, a high-fibre diet may protect people from developing colon cancer in the first place.
The greatest benefit was attributed to fibre from cereals and whole grains, according to the report. Vegetable fibre was linked to an overall reduction in death, but not specifically in death from colon cancer, and fibre from fruit was not linked to a reduction in death from any cause.
Fibre from foods, not supplements, was linked to better survival, said Chan, who is also an associate professor of gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
For the study, Chan and his colleagues collected data on 1,575 men and women who took part in the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study, and who had been treated for colon or rectal cancer that had not spread beyond the colon.
Specifically, the study looked at total fibre consumption in the six months to four years after the participants' cancer diagnosis. The researchers also looked at deaths from colon cancer and any other cause. In an eight-year period, 773 participants died, including 174 from colorectal cancer.
The study's conclusions are limited, indicating an association but not proof, because participants self-reported how much fibre they ate and where it came from, which means the data could have been skewed by people's memories and the tendency to tell researchers what they think they want to hear.
The study was published in JAMA Oncology.