CLEVELAND – Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States.
Fiber has been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer in a handful of studies, and now new research suggests fiber may also help colon cancer survivors live longer.
“People who had consciously added fiber to their diet had a significant improvement in their risk of dying of the cancer itself or dying from any other cause,” said Dale Shepard, M.D., Ph.D., of Cleveland Clinic, who did not take part in the research.
Researchers studied food questionnaires and medical records from 1,575 people who had been treated for early stage colon cancer.
Results showed eating more fiber-rich foods was associated with a 20 percent reduction in risk of dying from colon cancer, and about a 15 percent lower risk of dying from any other cause.
The study suggests high-fiber cereals and whole grains have the greatest impact on survival, followed by fiber-rich vegetables, and then fruits.
Doctors aren’t quite sure why fiber protects against colon cancer, but some believe fiber helps move food through the digestive system faster, limiting the time potential carcinogens sit in the intestines. Fiber may also have anti-inflammatory properties.
Dr. Shepard said fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and that adding a little extra will do a body good.
“A fairly small increase in dietary fiber, in this case five grams of extra fiber, had a significant impact on death in patients who had been diagnosed with colon cancer,” said Dr. Shepard.
According to Dr. Shepard, five grams of fiber is equivalent to about one bowl of oatmeal.
Complete results of the study can be found in Jama Oncology.