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Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD
Patients with stage III colon cancer who have undergone surgery and
chemotherapy with the goal of cure may have a higher risk of relapsing
and dying early if they follow a predominantly "Western" diet of red
meat, fatty foods, refined grains, and desserts, according to research
led by investigators at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. The
findings were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's
annual meeting in Chicago this past weekend.
"This is the first large prospective trial to look at how diet
impacts on colon cancer survivors, and while the results are
preliminary, they are highly suggestive that diet may impact on the
outcome of these patients," said Dana-Farber's Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD,
the study's lead author.
The research involved 1,009 patients with stage III colon cancer
(cancer localized to the large bowel area with positive lymph nodes near
the tumor) who were participating in a randomized, phase III clinical
trial of adjuvant chemotherapy. They recorded their dietary intake on
questionnaires for six months after chemotherapy, and researchers then
tracked them for cancer recurrence or death.
The questionnaires indicated that participants' dietary patterns fell
into two categories, dubbed "prudent" and "Western" by researchers.
The prudent pattern was characterized by high fruit, vegetable, poultry,
and fish intakes; the Western pattern was marked by high intake of red
meat, fat and desserts.
Researchers found that cancer tended to recur significantly faster in
participants whose diets most closely followed the Western pattern. A
Western diet was also associated with a lower overall survival rate.
These findings remained consistent after researchers controlled for
factors such as gender, age, body mass index, degree of cancer spread to
lymph nodes, or physical activity level.
By contrast, researchers found that a prudent pattern diet did not significantly influence cancer recurrence or mortality.
The senior author of the research is Charles Fuchs, MD, MPH, of
Dana-Farber. The co-authors are Robert J. Mayer, MD, Dana-Farber; Donna
Niedzwiecki, PhD, and Donna Hollis, MS, Duke University School of
Medicine; Leonard Saltz, MD, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center; and
Walter Willett, MD, DrPH, Harvard School of Public Health.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org)
is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is
among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States.
It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center
(DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National