Surviving colorectal cancer linked to a high-fiber diet

Nov. 27, 2017—Diet can make a difference after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer. A new study suggests people with colorectal cancer may have a lower risk of death if they eat more fiber.

Colorectal cancer—that's cancer of the colon or rectum—is the third most common cancer in both men and women and the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Thanks to early detection and treatment, the number of colorectal cancer survivors is expected to grow.

But there's not a lot of data about diet and survival after being diagnosed.

Fiber and colorectal cancer survival

Fiber has been linked to a lower risk of getting colorectal cancer in many studies. But researchers wanted to see what kind of impact eating fiber had after a colorectal cancer diagnosis.

They followed 1,575 health professionals diagnosed with stage I to stage III colorectal cancer. That means the cancer hadn't spread to distant sites.

Participants filled out questionnaires about their diets. They reported how often, on average, they ate specific foods.

The researchers assessed fiber intake from major food sources like cereals, vegetables and fruits. They also looked at the effect of eating whole grains from foods like rice, bread, pasta and breakfast cereals.

The power of fiber

The study showed that people who ate more fiber had lower rates of death—both from colorectal cancer and all other causes. This was especially true when people ate a lot of cereal fiber.

Cereal fiber and whole grains are linked to other health benefits too. These foods have been found to lower rates of precancerous polyps in the colon, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and death in general.

If you have colorectal cancer, increasing how much fiber you eat can make a difference, the researchers said.

The study was published in JAMA Oncology.

Are you eating enough fiber?

Fiber is a nutritional powerhouse, but many people don't eat enough of it. Many surprisingly high-fiber foods can be worked into your daily diet.

Which foods have the most fiber, and how much should you eat? You can find out with our daily fiber calculator.