The connection is especially strong in patients who are overweight or obese. Over a 1,000 patients with advanced (stage III) colon cancer participated in the study, one of the first to examine how diet can affect the chances that the disease will recur.
The findings are published online by the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and will appear later in the journal’s print edition.
“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.”
Those with a typical “Western” diet — marked by high intakes of meat, fat, refined grains, and sugar desserts — were three times more likely to have a cancer recurrence than those whose diets were least Western.
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.