Disease States / Uncategorized

Eating fruit and veg cuts risk of specific bowel cancers

The risk of getting different types of colorectal cancers are moderated by which fruit and vegetables are consumed, a study suggests

The effects on bowel cancer of eating different types of fruit and vegetables appear to differ according to which part of the gut is affected, according to a new study.

Researchers found that found that members of the brassica family of vegetables (such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli) were associated with a decreased risk of cancer in the proximal and distal colon. Apples were particularly efficient at lowering the risk of distal and colon cancers. However, an increased risk of rectal cancer was found with increasing consumption of fruit juice.

One major UK cancer charity said the research had failed to find any clear answers on the subject.


The effect of eating fruit and vegetables on bowel cancer has been widely investigated, and current advice is for people to eat five portions of fresh fruit and vegetables each day to reduce their risk of the disease.

Writing in the latest edition of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, the authors of the latest study say that the protective effect of eating fruit and veg is subject to debate because of different effects they have on different parts of the bowel.

“It may be that some of the confusion about the relationship between diet and cancer risk is due to the fact that previous studies did not take site of the CRC [colorectal cancer] into account,” lead researcher, Professor Lin Fritschi, head of the Epidemiology Group at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research, Perth, said in a statement.

To examine this in more detail, Australian researchers carried out a case control study of 918 participants who had been diagnosed with bowel cancer matched against a control group of 1,021 people without the disease.

Participants filled out questionnaires about their medical history and eating habits and were given a socioeconomic status based on where they lived.


Among the findings were that:

  • Consumption of brassica vegetables was associated with reduced incidence of proximal colon cancer.
  • For distal colon cancer, both total fruit and vegetable intake and total vegetable intake appeared to decrease risk.
  • Distal colon cancer risk was significantly decreased in association with intake of dark yellow vegetables and apples.
  • There was an increased risk of rectal cancer with consumption of fruit juice.
  • Risk of proximal colon cancer and rectal cancer was not associated with how much fruit, vegetables or fruit plus vegetables were consumed.

The authors acknowledge that their findings have limitations, partly because participants in the study had been asked to recall their diets from 10 years previously.

UK reaction

Commenting on the study, Professor Annie Anderson, Professor of Public Health Nutrition and medical advisor for Bowel Cancer UK, says in an emailed statement: “This paper adds to existing work that both total intake fruits and vegetables are good for bowel health (bear in mind that we cannot predict which part of the gut that tumours will arise) as well as some very common, popular vegetables.

“The specific findings for brassica, apples and dark yellow vegetables should lead us to review possible bio-active ingredients and plausible mechanisms. It is possible that high fruit juice might be a proxy for other lifestyle factors or a reflection of excess weight which is known to be associated with weight gain which in turn is associated with increased CRC risk.”

Nell Barrie, senior science communication’s officer at Cancer Research UK, said: in a statement: “This isn’t a large study and it doesn’t give us clear answers about whether different fruits and vegetables affect the risk of cancer in different parts of the bowel.

“It’s very tricky to tease apart the effects of a person’s diet on their risk of bowel cancer, but reliable evidence shows that eating lots of red and processed meats increases the risk, while eating plenty of high fibre foods can reduce the risk. Many fruits and vegetables are a good source of fibre, and eating a diet that’s high in fruits and vegetables could reduce the risk of other types of cancer as well, so it’s a good idea to get plenty of them in your diet.”



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