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NMU 272 – Nutrition and Lifestyle Significantly Affect Colorectal Cancer Risk

Nutrition/Natural Medicine Update No 272 (January 11, 2023)

with Dr. James Meschino

Topic: Nutrition and Lifestyle Significantly Affect Colorectal Cancer Risk

Source: European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study (Am J Gastroenterology, December 2022)


In the December 2022 update from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition Study, researchers reported their most recent findings with respect to the association between colorectal cancer incidence and nutrition, lifestyle, and body weight (BMI) measurements. The study followed almost 300,000 (295,865) people, mostly 35 to 70 years of age, for an average of 7.8 years,  who lived in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. At the outset of the study, the researchers calculated a healthy lifestyle index (HLI) score for each subject, based on smoking status, alcohol consumption, body mass index (BMI), and physical activity. The data showed that a favorable healthy lifestyle score was associated with a 23% lower risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to an unfavorable healthy lifestyle score. This meant that people who didn’t smoke, avoided or ingested very little alcohol, who were at or near their ideal body weight, and who exercised regularly, had a risk of developing colorectal cancer that was 23% lower than those who were overweight, and/or who smoked, drank more alcohol and/or was less physically active. These findings should not be surprising as epidemiology studies suggest that 70-90% of colorectal cancer is preventable through more prudent diet and lifestyle factors.

With respect to diet and colorectal cancer, a study published in the BMC Medicine journal in November 2022 showed that men who ate the most plant-based foods had a 22% reduced risk of colon cancer, compared with those who ate the least. As they indicated, eating more plant foods increases the consumption of fiber and antioxidants associated with cancer prevention. As they also stated, it has long been known that people who avoid meat are at reduced risk, and this study adds additional evidence. Earlier in 2022 (August) a review of three other prospective studies was published in the British Medical Journal and showed that high consumption of ultra-processed foods was associated with an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, especially in men. The combined results of these prospective studies provided strong evidence that men who ingested the highest amount of ultra-processed foods had a 29% increased risk of developing colorectal cancer compared to men with the lowest intake of these foods.

Overall, these studies, all published in the year 2022, continue to support the premise that healthier diet and lifestyle habits can help to prevent colorectal cancer development. As colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death, when you combine statistics for men and women, these findings take on an even greater degree of importance. Early detection of colorectal cancer is very important, especially after age 50, via colonoscopy, but in my opinion. you should also follow the principles of a colon cancer-prevention diet and lifestyle, as highlighted by the studies presented here, to help prevent the development of colon cancer in the first place.

I have included the references for all these studies in the text below.


1. Edorardo B et al. Changes in lifestyle and risk of colorectal cancer in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition. Am J Gastroenterol. Dec 2, 2022.

2. Medscape Review of Article:

3. Kim J et al. Plant-based dietary patterns defined by a priori indices and colorectal cancer risk by sex and race/ethnicity: the Multiethnic Cohort Study. BMC Medicine. November 2022.

4. Wang L et al. Association of ultra-processed food consumption with colorectal cancer risk among men and women: Results from three prospective US cohort studies. BMJ August 2022.


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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