Inflammatory Diets May Up Colorectal Cancer Risk

Chronic inflammation has been linked with various chronic illnesses, including cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. A new study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that inflammation-causing properties in foods such as red and processed meats, sugary beverages, and refined grains may be the cause for increasing an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer.

“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 lead study author Fred Tabung, a research associate in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School, in a January 18, 2018, Vox article.

Researchers followed about 122,000 male and female health care professionals for 26 years and found that those who ate the most pro-inflammatory diet had a 32% greater risk of developing colorectal cancer than those whose diet contained the lowest amounts of inflammation-causing foods.

The findings suggest that inflammation is a potential mechanism linking what a person eats and colorectal cancer development. Interventions to reduce the adverse role of pro-inflammatory diets may be more effective among overweight/obese men and lean women or men and women who do not consume alcohol, according to the study.


Association of Dietary Inflammatory Potential With Colorectal Cancer Risk in Men and Women, JAMA Oncol. Published online January 18, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.4844

Why certain diets may increase your cancer risk: The link between inflammatory diets and colorectal cancer, explained. Vox

Access the abstract

Related Resources

ACG Colorectal Cancer Patient Health Center

ACG Colorectal Cancer Screening Guidelines

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