Among patients with stage III colon cancer, consumption of nuts is associated with significantly reduced risks of disease recurrence and mortality, according to multi-institutional research led by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute scientists. The findings were released online today ahead of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in Chicago, June 2-6, 2017.
Following 826 such patients for seven years after their surgery and chemotherapy, the study found a 42 percent improvement in disease-free survival and a 57 percent improvement in overall survival among patients who ate at least two servings of nuts a week compared to those who ate no nuts.
“Nut consumption is one of the lifestyle factors that may potentially change the risk of colon cancer coming back, although these are not replacements for standard therapies,” said Temidayo Fadelu, MD, a Dana-Farber postdoctoral fellow.
Benefits related to nut consumption were not affected by established risk factors for colon cancer recurrence such as common genomic alterations often implicated in the disease, Fadelu added. However, the benefits were only seen for tree nuts, such as walnuts and almonds, and not for peanuts or peanut butter.
The work follows up on earlier research on lifestyle effects on cancer led by Dana-Farber scientists, including a large observational study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013. In that study, research showed people who ate nuts every day were 11 percent less likely to die from cancer than people who consumed no nuts.
Fadelu cautioned that the observations from the CALGB 89803 (Alliance) trial do not address whether nut consumption may aid in preventing cancer occurrence or slowing its progression among patients with metastatic disease.
Another analysis of this trial showed lower risks of mortality among patients who followed American Cancer Society guidelines for diet and exercise.
“Nut consumption is just one factor among an entire slew of healthy behaviors, including increased physical activity, keeping a healthy weight, and lower intake of sugar and sweetened beverages, that will help to reduce the odds of colon cancer coming back,” Fadelu said.
Co-authors on the study from Dana-Farber include Robert Mayer, MD, Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, and Shuji Ogino, MD, PhD, MS.