Studying the Influence of Better Diet After Diagnosis for Colorectal Cancer

A CPS-II Nutrition Study

Investigator: Mark A. Guinter, PhD, MPH
Institution: American Cancer Society, Population Science Department
Area of Research: Cancer Prevention and Survivorship Studies

The Challenge: Research shows a strong link between a person’s diet and their risk for developing colorectal cancer. But there hasn’t been consistent research about the effect of diet after a diagnosis of colorectal cancer.

The Research: recent ACS study was one of the first to focus on colorectal cancer survivors’ risk of dying based on how well they ate before and after their diagnosis. Mark Guinter, PhD, MPH, a former American Cancer Society (ACS) post-doctoral fellow, was the lead author.

He and his team used data from 2,801 men and women with colorectal cancer from the ACS Cancer Prevention Study-II (CPS-II) Nutrition Study. Those who reported a diet that followed the ACS Guidelines for Nutrition for Cancer Prevention had a lower risk of death from their cancer — even if their diet was unhealthy before diagnosis. The ACS nutrition guidelines recommend eating lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and limit or avoid red and processed meats, sugary drinks, and highly processed foods. 

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: The findings suggest that colorectal cancer survivors may be able to live longer by eating a healthy diet. Doctors and other health care providers may use this evidence to let colorectal cancer survivors know that it’s not too late to improve how they eat.