By: Bahar Gholipour, LiveScience Staff Writer
Published: 06/24/2013 10:01 AM EDT on LiveScience
Eating chicken during high school may reduce the risk of a precancerous condition that may develop into colon cancer, a new study finds.
In a study of nearly 20,000 women, those who ate more chicken during their teen years had lower risks of developing colorectal adenomas, which are benign tumors that may progress into colon cancer.
The researchers didn't find a direct relationship between red meat intake and adenomas, but the results showed that replacing one serving per day of red meat with one serving of poultry or fish may reduce the risks of rectal and advanced adenomas by about 40 percent.
"Among different cancers, colorectal cancer is the most influenced by diet," said study researcher Dr. Katharina Nimptsch. "Compared to something like smoking, diet is not a large cancer risk factor, but it does have an impact."
Previous research has found that a diet high in red and processed meat may increase risks of colon cancer. Other risk factors for developing colon cancer include heavy alcohol consumption, lack of exercise, as well as diabetes and a diet rich in fat.
However, previous studies have investigated diet during adulthood, rather than focusing on what people eat earlier in life, and their future cancer risk.
"Colorectal carcinogenesis is a long process that can take several decades, and the initial steps of carcinogenesis may occur at young ages," the researchers wrote in their study.
In the study, 19,771 women ages 34 to 51 answered questions about their diet during high school. Over the following 10 years, 1,494 of the women were diagnosed with colorectal adenomas. Of these adenomas, 305 were in an advanced stage.
"Our findings do not suggest an association between red meat intake during adolescence and colorectal adenomas later in life, but higher poultry intake during this time was associated with a lower risk of colorectal adenomas," the researchers said.
Eating more poultry and fish in adulthood didn't seem to change the risk, according to the study.
The researchers found it surprising that the results didn't show a link between red meat and the risk of adenomas, Nimptsch said. "When you look at the amount of meat people ate, it was really high." However, there were few women in the study who ate very little red meat; perhaps there was not enough variation to see a significant difference in risk, she said.
As with other observational studies, the findings cannot show a cause-and-effect relationship. "Before recommendations are made based on these findings, it is necessary that results are confirmed," Nimptsch said.
The results add to previous evidence that eating poultry may decrease risk of colon cancer. However, what mechanism might underlie the link remains unclear.
The study was published June 19 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
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Eat Fiber From Whole Grains
Researchers from Britain and the Netherlands found that the more <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/13/fiber-colorectal-cancer-risk-whole-grains_n_1089082.html" target="_hplink">total dietary fiber and cereal fiber</a> people consumed, the lower their colorectal cancer risk. For example, people who consumed an extra 90 grams of whole grains a day also had a 20 percent lower risk of colorectal cancer, according to the <em>British Medical Journal</em> review. However, that same study didn't show a link between eating fiber from fruits and vegetables and a lowered colorectal cancer risk, meaning there may be something else in whole grains at work, too.
Researchers from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands found that people who <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/25/aspirin-bowel-cancer-risk_n_1451209.html" target="_hplink">take aspirin once a day</a> have a 30 percent decreased risk of dying from colorectal cancer, if taken for at least a nine-month period. And, the benefit extended to after a person had been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The researchers found that people who had already been diagnosed and who took aspirin had a 23 percent decreased risk of dying from the disease, compared with people who didn't take it at all.
Eat Chocolate (Maybe)
The <em>Daily Mail</em> reported on a study in mice, published in the journal <em>Molecular Nutrition and Food Research</em>, showing that rats exposed to a carcinogen <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2091627/Eating-chocolate-stave-bowel-cancer-say-scientists.html" target="_hplink">developed fewer colon cancer lesions</a> than rats if they consumed high-cocoa diets. "Being exposed to different poisons in the diet like toxins, mutagens and procarcinogens, the intestinal mucus is very susceptible to pathologies," study researcher Maria Angeles Martin Arribas, a researcher at the Institute of Food Science and Technology and Nutrition, said <a href="http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-01/f-sf-ccp012412.php" target="_hplink">in a statement</a>. "Foods like cocoa, which is rich in polyphenols, seems to play an important role in protecting against disease." However, it's important to note that this effect was tested only on mice.
Consume Ginger Root
Research published in the journal <em>Cancer Prevention Research</em> showed that taking 2 grams of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/10/12/ginger-could-reduce-risk-of-bowel-cancer_n_1006855.html" target="_hplink">ginger root supplement</a> every day might have colon cancer-preventing powers. The researchers from the University of Michigan Medical School found that taking ginger root supplements helped to minimize signs of inflammation of the colon, which has been connected to colon cancer.
Go To A Classical Music-Loving Doctor
A study from the University of Texas Health Science Center showed that doctors who conduct colonoscopies while <a href="http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2011/10/31/could-mozart-decrease-your-risk-of-colon-cancer/" target="_hplink">listening to Mozart</a> are more likely to find polyps, which can lead to colon cancer, ABC News reported. The study showed that polyp-detection increased to 36.7 percent from 27.16 percent when the doctors listened to Mozart.
A study in the journal <em>Cancer Causes & Control</em> showed that <a href="http://www.johnshopkinshealthalerts.com/alerts/colon_cancer/exercise-colon-cancer_6153-1.html" target="_hplink">people who exercise</a> or play sports five or more times a week can lower their risk of developing colorectal cancer, compared with those who don't exercise regularly (or at all), Johns Hopkins University reported. <blockquote>Why exercise might reduce colon cancer risk isn't well understood. It may be because exercise enhances the immune system or because it reduces levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factors, all of which have been associated with colon cancer risk.</blockquote>
Eat Your Veggies
A number of studies have linked the <a href="http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/foods/cruciferous/" target="_hplink">consumption of cruciferous vegetables</a> with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, Oregon State University reported, though the effect may depend on a person's genetic risk. In particular, a study published in 2000 in <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11117618?dopt=Abstract" target="_hplink">the <em>American Journal of Epidemiology</em></a>, showed that people who ate the most cruciferous veggies in a day (about 58 grams per day, on average) had a lower risk of colon cancer compared with people who ate the fewest cruciferous veggies in a day (about 11 grams per day, on average), Oregon State University reported.
Enjoy Some Berries (Maybe)
A study in mice showed that compounds called anthocyanins, found in <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39971798/ns/health-cancer/t/black-raspberries-prevent-colorectal-cancer-mice/#.T61SE59Ytvc" target="_hplink">black raspberries</a>, seem to have powers at anti-colorectal cancer powers, MyHealthNewsDaily reported. The berries may help to <a href="http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39971798/ns/health-cancer/t/black-raspberries-prevent-colorectal-cancer-mice/#.T61SE59Ytvc" target="_hplink">prevent cancer</a> because of their "high antioxidant activity," study researcher Gary Stoner, of the College of Medicine at Ohio State University, told MyHealthNewsDaily; those antioxidants work to fight against DNA-damaging free radicals in the body.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer
The Doctors and USA Weekend share tips for reducing your risk of colorectal cancer.