A very large proportion of colon cancer cases are related to certain facets of our lifestyle. The composition of the diet has a great influence on the risk of developing several cancers. Nothing illustrates this relationship better than the high incidence of colon cancer currently observed in industrialized countries.
Indeed, it is now established that about 75% of colon cancers are directly related to the typical diet of industrialized societies, i.e. rich in saturated fats of animal origin (meat, dairy products ), low in fruits, vegetables and fibre, and often characterized by excessive caloric intake with the consequent increase in the risk of obesity.
Changing this type of diet is therefore an essential prerequisite for reducing the mortality associated with colon cancer.
Studies to date have identified several dietary factors that can significantly reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.
These foods are an essential facet of any colon cancer prevention strategy through diet, as people who eat large amounts of them have approximately 2 times less risk of developing the disease. Among the vegetables most active against this cancer are cruciferous vegetables – broccoli in particular – as well as those of the garlic and onion family.
In both cases, these vegetables reduce the amount of carcinogenic substances formed by the bacteria of our intestinal flora, which reduces the formation of abnormal cells that can degenerate into cancer. In addition, recent studies carried out on cells isolated from colon tumors show that certain molecules present in these vegetables also have the ability to kill cancer cells already present, a phenomenon that could obviously help prevent the development of this cancer.
2 Fibers but not just any fibers
It should also be noted that even if for several years the consumption of fiber has been suggested as an important factor in the prevention of colon cancer, the data accumulated since that time show that the reality is much more complex. Indeed, it seems that all dietary fiber does not have the same protective effect, as evidenced by the results of a recent study which revealed that cereal fiber is ineffective in preventing colon cancer.
However, it seems that another category of fibers present in certain plants, lignans, could contribute to the prevention of this cancer. These lignans are present in very high amounts in flax and sunflower seeds as well as in some nuts. These grains should therefore be considered as foods with a strong potential for preventing colon cancer.
In the laboratory, turmeric and its main constituent, curcumin, are potent inhibitors of the development of colon cancer. A role of this spice in the prevention of this cancer is also suggested by observations showing that the Indians, large consumers of this spice, have a rate of colon cancer 10 times lower than that observed in industrialized countries.
The composition of the intestinal microbial flora also plays a leading role in the development of colon cancer. Several observations suggest that certain beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, could prevent colon cancer. Moreover, studies on the effect of consuming fermented milk products containing these bacteria – so-called probiotics – show that these fermented products reduce the development of colon cancer in animal models. Several fermented products containing probites such as bifidobacteria therefore represent an interesting addition to the dietary habits of people interested in cancer prevention.
The devastation caused by colon cancer in industrialized countries is a concrete example of the impact that diet can have on the development of cancer. However, it is possible to turn the tide and dramatically reduce the mortality associated with this disease. In this sense, modifying eating habits so as to introduce the foods mentioned above and reduce the consumption of saturated fats is undoubtedly the best way to achieve this objective.