Sorry folks, but if you're a fan of red meat, you could be increasing your risk of colon cancer, according to a new study. That goes for white bread and sugary drinks, too.
That's because these foods increase inflammation in the body, and this inflammation is associated with a higher long-term risk of developing colon cancer.
Looking at data of more than 120,000 adults from two health studies, researchers determined that men and women with the highest inflammatory diets increased their risk of developing colon cancer by 32 per cent.
Specifically, men who had a diet of inflammatory foods were 44 per cent more likely to develop colon cancer than those who had different diets, while women with inflammatory diets were 22 per cent more likely to develop the disease.
"There are several stimulators of chronic inflammation, and diet is one of those factors that can constantly stimulate the body toward a more chronic inflammatory state," said Fred Tabung, the lead study author and research associate at Harvard University's Department of Nutrition. "With this study we are inching closer to understanding inflammation as a cancer risk."
The study, published on Thursday in the journal JAMA Oncology, demonstrates the association between diet and colon cancer. Since inflammation can send your immune system into overdrive as it tries to maintain the body's health, ongoing inflammation can be dangerous because it hinders your body's ability to fight off disease.
"Many major diseases that plague us — including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's — have been linked to chronic inflammation," notes Harvard Health Publishing. That's why limiting foods with the potential to inflame, such as french fries, processed meats and pop, is so important.
Dr. Nancy Baxter, a University of Toronto professor and expert at American Society of Clinical Oncology, said the associations between diet and colon cancer drawn from the new study make sense.
"We know that chronic inflammation has a lot of negative effects on people, and not just on cancer," she said, according to HealthDay. "It's not a natural state. It's not natural for us to have ongoing inflammation."
While it's clear that people should watch what they eat in order to avoid increasing the risk of colon cancer, nutrition epidemiologist Marji McCullough, of the American Cancer Society, advises people to pay attention to general diet, rather than specific foods.
"How overall diet contributes to this inflammatory effect is likely more important than individual foods because foods may act together in influencing disease risk," she told Vox.
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