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November 2012

Carbohydrate Consumption May Increase Colon Cancer Recurrence

A starchy diet that is high in carbohydrates may increase the risk of recurrence and death in people who have colon cancer, a study reports.

Researchers assessed 1,011 colon cancer patients who reported dietary intake during and six months after receiving chemotherapy. All subjects were in stage III of the disease, the second-to-latest stage of colon cancer. The research team collected information that included the subjects' fructose and carbohydrate intake, and conducted tests to determine if these factors affect cancer recurrence and related death. They also measured the patients' glycemic index, blood sugar increase after eating, and glycemic load, the amount of carbohydrate intake.

People who had a higher glycemic load and carbohydrate intake had a significantly increased risk of experiencing colon cancer recurrence or death, compared to those with lower levels. This connection appeared to be greater in patients who were overweight or obese.

The researchers concluded that dietary energy intake of colon cancer patients may affect their long-term well-being. Further study is needed to confirm these findings.

Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine (colon), which is the lower part of the digestive system. Rectal cancer occurs on the last eight to ten inches of the colon. They are often referred to together as colorectal cancers, and are the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

The incidence is slightly higher in men than women, and is highest in African American men. The incidence of colorectal cancer is highest in developed countries such as the United States and Japan, and lowest in developing countries such as Africa and Asia. Ashkenazi Jewish individuals have a higher incidence of a specific genetic mutation (called I1307K) that increases the risk for colorectal cancer.

Most colon cancers are adenocarcinomas (cancer in the glands or secretory cells) that develop when a change occurs in cells that line the wall of the colon or rectum. The disease often begins as an intestinal polyp, also called an adenoma, which is an abnormal growth of tissue. Polyps can gradually become precancerous and then cancerous.

For more information about colon cancer, please visit Natural Standard's Medical Conditions database.


  1. Meyerhardt JA, Sato K, Niedzwiecki D, et al. Dietary Glycemic Load and Cancer Recurrence and Survival in Patients with Stage III Colon Cancer: Findings From CALGB 89803. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2012 Nov 7. [Epub ahead of print] View Abstract
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine.
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