Dr. Campbell: Diet, exercise can make difference in survival after colon cancer

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States today.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for the 95,520 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in 2017. It is the third most common cancer diagnosis in the U.S. today.


Now two new studies — scheduled to be presented in early June in Chicago at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meetings — suggests that colon cancer patients may improve their chances of survival if they eat nuts and an overall healthy diet as well in addition to getting regular exercise.

1. Tell us about this latest research

In a seven-year study, patients successfully treated for stage three colon cancer (meaning that the cancer had spread to nearby areas) who ate at least two ounces of nuts a week had a 42 percent lower chance of their cancer coming back and a 57 percent lower risk of dying from the disease. Nearly one in five patients (19 percent) said they ate at least two ounces of nuts a week, and researchers found both a lower risk of cancer recurrence and higher overall survival in that group.

A second study found that colon cancer survivors with the highest healthy lifestyle scores — eating right, exercising and maintaining a healthy weight — had a 42 percent lower risk of death than those with the lowest scores. Survival improved even more if patients also limited their alcohol consumption.

Patients who strictly followed a healthy lifestyle did not drink had a 51 percent lower chance of dying and a 36 percent lower chance of cancer recurrence.

2. What type of nuts were consumed?

The researchers found that the most benefit was found in tree nuts such as Brazil nuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts and pistachios — peanuts did not show a benefit — likely because they have a different biochemical composition. It may be that tree nuts promote decreased inflammation and lower insulin levels which lead to a decreased risk for cancer recurrence.

3. What is the take home message from these new findings?

It is important to remember that patients should not think that diet and exercise is a replacement for surgery and chemo for cancer. Chemotherapy clearly saves lives in patients with colon cancer. However, these studies do tell us that exercise and diet can play a significant role in recovery and prevention of recurrence and should be part of your overall treatment plan.

To get in touch with Dr. Campbell, you can head to his website, Facebook page or message him on Twitter.

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