Diets known for promoting inflammation in the body also found to increase risk of colon cancer

Foods that promote inflammation in the body, such as red meat and refined grains, have been revealed to also increase the risk of colorectal cancer, according to a report published on the website

Although inflammation is needed by the body to protect itself from harmful stimuli and start the healing process, it also plays a role in the development of colorectal cancer. As a result, foods that cause chronic inflammation may also play a role in colorectal cancer development.

A study led by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that men and women who eat foods that cause inflammation have more chances of developing colon cancer. In the study, the research team used data from 121,050 health care professionals from two different groups – for men, the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and for women, the Nurses’ Health Study.

They followed the participants for 26 years and the participants accomplished food frequency questionnaires every four years. Moreover, the participants answered questionnaires on lifestyle, demographic, and health-related information every two years. The researchers then calculated empirical dietary inflammatory pattern (EDIP) scores from the food frequency questionnaires and evaluated associations with new cases of colorectal cancer. The EDIP score was based on a weighted average of 18 food groups that represent dietary inflammation potential measured by inflammatory biomakers.

The findings of the study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, revealed that men who followed a high-inflammatory diet had a 44 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer compared to those who ate the less inflammatory foods. Similarly, women who ate more inflammatory foods had a 22 percent higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. Moreover, men and women who did not drink alcohol but followed an inflammatory diet were found to have 62 percent and 33 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer, respectively. Furthermore, obese men and lean women adhering to an inflammatory-causing diet are also at risk.

“Strategies to reduce the adverse role of a pro-inflammatory dietary pattern in colorectal cancer development may have higher benefits among overweight or obese men and among lean women or among men and women not consuming alcohol,” said Fred Tabung, first author of the study.

The researchers shared that foods such as processed and red meats, refined grains, sodas, and other sugary beverages cause inflammation, while foods such as wine, tea, coffee, fruit juice, green leafy vegetables, and yellow/orange vegetables are anti-inflammatory. (Related: Top inflammatory foods to avoid eating.)

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer, also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer, is any cancer that affects the colon and the rectum. According to the estimates of American Cancer Society,  this type of cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the country, and is expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths in 2018.

You may identify colorectal cancer with these symptoms:

  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • A feeling that the bowel does not empty properly after a bowel movement
  • Blood in feces, making stools appear black
  • Bright red blood from the rectum
  • Abdominal pain and bloating
  • Feeling full in the abdomen, even after not eating for a while
  • Fatigue or tiredness
  • Sudden weight loss
  • A lump in the abdomen
  • Sudden iron deficiency in men, or in women after menopause

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