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Fruits, Veggies Won't Lower Colon Cancer Risk

Study finds no link, but these foods do fight other health woes, experts say

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Although eating lots of fruits and vegetables is good for your health, doing so will not reduce your risk for colon cancer, a Canadian study finds.

But fruits and veggies can still help ward off heart diseases and other cancers, one expert says.

"We know that fruits and vegetables are healthy and help prevent chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease," said Marji McCullough, a nutritional epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society. "Eating fruits and vegetables also helps prevent weight gain, which is also related to chronic disease including cancers," she added.

Those include cancers of the mouth and pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon-rectum, larynx, lung, ovary, bladder and kidney.

In their review of the data, a team led by Anita Koushik, from the University of Montreal, looked at the link between eating fruits and vegetables and the risk for colon cancer. Koushik's team pored over data from 14 studies that included more than 756,000 men and women followed for between 6 to 20 years.

The report was published in the Sept. 25 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers found that eating fruits and vegetables was not strongly associated with overall colon cancer risk.

However, among people who ate the largest quantities of fruits and vegetables, they did find a possible associated with a lower risk of cancer of the distal colon -- the left-hand side of the colon. But this association was not statistically significant, they noted.

"Results were consistent between men and women," Koushik's group added.

"The consumption of fruits and vegetables was not strongly associated with the risk of colon cancer overall but was inversely associated with the risk of distal colon cancer," they wrote. "Diets plentiful in fruits and vegetables remain important given these findings and the benefits that have been observed for other health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease and some other cancers," the team concluded.

McCullough agreed. "This finding doesn't change the bottom line," she said. "You should eat a diet high in a variety of fruits and vegetables," she said.

On the other hand, eating red and processed meat is associated with an increased risk for colon cancer, McCullough added.

More information

Get the American Cancer Society's recommendations on food and fitness.

SOURCES: Marji McCullough, Ph.D., nutritional epidemiologist, American Cancer Society, Atlanta; Sept. 25, 2007, Journal of the National Cancer Institute

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