Inflammation-Causing Diets and Cancer Risk

Jan 20, 2018
Are Inflammation-Causing Diets Associated with Risk of Colorectal Cancer?

Bottom Line: A diet high in foods with the potential to cause inflammation, including meats, refined grains and high-calorie beverages, was associated with increased risk of developing colorectal cancer for men and women.

Why The Research Is Interesting: Colorectal cancer is a common cancer and inflammation is believed to play a role in the development of cancer. What people eat can influence inflammation in the body as measured by inflammatory biomarkers, so diet may be modifiable risk factor to prevent colorectal cancer.

Who and When: 121,050 male and female health care professionals who were followed for 26 years in long-term studies and completed food questionnaires about what they ate; data analysis was done in 2017

What (Study Measures): Scores based on 18 food groups characterized for their inflammatory potential and calculated from participants’ food questionnaires administered every four years (exposure); new cases of colorectal cancer (outcome)

How (Study Design): This is an observational cohort study where people were followed over time. Because researchers are not intervening for purposes of the study they cannot control for all the natural differences that could explain the study findings.

Authors: Fred K. Tabung, M.S.P.H., Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, and coauthors

Results: Higher scores reflecting inflammation-causing diets were associated with a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer in men and women; the risk appeared to be higher among overweight or obese men and lean women and among men and women not consuming alcohol.

Limitations: Self-reported dietary and lifestyle data

Study Conclusions:

Inflammation is a potential mechanism linking dietary patterns and colorectal cancer development, and strategies to reduce the adverse role of a pro-inflammatory diet may reduce colorectal cancer risk.

Related material: An author podcast is available for preview on the For The Media website. This previously published JAMA Internal Medicine article also may be of interest.

For more details and to read the full study, please visit the For The Media website.