According to the study, eating a plant-based diet can help reduce the risk of bowel cancer in men; the research found the diet was associated with a reduced risk of incidence.
Co-author of the study, Jihye Kim, said: “Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the risk of developing colorectal cancer over a lifetime is one in 23 for men and one in 25 for women.
“Although previous research has suggested that plant-based diets may play a role in preventing colorectal cancer, the impact of plant foods’ nutritional quality on this association has been unclear.
“Our findings suggest that eating a healthy plant-based diet is associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.”
As to why this was the case, Professor Kim said: “We speculate that the antioxidants found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains could contribute to lowering colorectal cancer risk by suppressing chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer.
“As men tend to have a higher risk of colorectal cancer than women, we propose that this could help explain why eating greater amounts of healthy plant-based foods was associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk in men but not women.”
However, the authors did find some differences in incidence with regard to race and ethnicity of men. They found Japanese American men were 20 percent less likely to develop the condition if they ate a plant-based diet than those who didn’t.
In comparison, white American men on the diet were 24 percent less likely to get bowel cancer than the same men who weren’t engaging in the same eating habits.
Professor Kim added: “We suggest that the association between plant-based diets and colorectal cancer risk may have been strongest in Japanese American and white men due to differences in other colorectal cancer risk factors between racial and ethnic groups.
“However, further research is needed to confirm this.”
On the research in question, the authors say because theirs was an observational study that this should not be taken to mean that a plant-based diet can prevent bowel cancer from developing.
Rather, they have observed a potential link between the two entities rather than established causation; this is why they have said more evidence is needed.
The main symptoms of bowel cancer
Bowel cancer has three key symptoms to look out for:
• A persistent change in bowel habit
• Blood in poo without other symptoms of piles
• Abdominal pain, discomfort, or bloating always brought on by eating.
The NHS writes: “The symptoms of bowel cancer can be subtle and do not necessarily make you feel ill. However, it’s worth trying simple treatments for a short time to see if they get better.
“More than 90 percent of people with bowel cancer have one of the following combinations of symptoms [as listed above]. Most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer.”
As to when patients should get advice, the NHS advises that patients should see a GP if they have these symptoms for three or more weeks.
What causes bowel cancer?
The NHS says: “The exact cause of bowel cancer is unknown. However, research has shown several factors may make you more likely to develop it.
“Cancer develops when the cells in a certain area of your body divide and multiply too quickly. This produces a lump of tissue called a tumour.
“Bowel cancer usually first develops inside clumps of cells called polyps on the inner lining of the bowel. However, it does not necessarily mean you’ll get bowel cancer if you develop polyps.
“Some polyps go away by themselves, and some do not change. Only a few grow and eventually develop into bowel cancer over a period of several years.”