How diet affects colorectal cancer risk in black communities

key takeaways

  • Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States.
  • Blacks are about 20 percent more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer and about 40 percent more likely to die from colorectal cancer than most other races and ethnicities. However, there is not a lot of evidence on how people in this group reduce their risk.
  • A new study of more than 70,000 people suggests that blacks have lower intakes of polyphenols than whites, which may contribute to their increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the United States. Over 50,000 people die each year from colon and/or rectal cancer.

The disease disproportionately affects black Americans In fact, black patients were 20 percent more likely to receive a colorectal cancer diagnosis and about 40 percent more likely to die from colorectal cancer than patients of most other races and ethnicities.

Only about 35% of the overall risk of colorectal cancer is related to genetic factors. This means having data on how to address modifiable risk factors, such as diet, is critical to helping people reduce their risk.

To that end, a new study examines how differences in dietary intake between blacks and whites affect colorectal cancer risk.The study was published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Early diagnosis of colorectal cancer


Colorectal Cancer and Diet

colorectal cancer

Research suggests that dietary choices, such as eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, may reduce a person’s risk of colorectal cancer.

These foods are usually rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals.Certain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, and tea, also contain antioxidants Polyphenols.

Studies have shown that consuming polyphenols can reduce the risk of colon cancer. However, few studies have looked at the consumption of these potent antioxidants in those at the highest risk of colorectal cancer.

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Tamar Samuels, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian at Culina Health who was not involved in the study, told VigorTip that studies on health outcomes among non-Hispanic black adults in the U.S. are “very different.”

Since we know blacks are at higher risk for colorectal cancer, having more data will help providers provide people with potentially life-saving information about their health.

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colorectal cancer

Only about 35% of the overall risk of colorectal cancer is genetic. Therefore, it is important to find out how to control for modifiable risk factors, such as a person’s dietary choices.

Who is included?

In the recent study, researchers evaluated data collected as part of a southern community cohort study. The study included data collected from more than 70,000 people in the southeastern United States between 2002 and 2009. Most of the participants were black and low-income.

The researchers looked at participants’ polyphenol intake based on their responses to food frequency questionnaires. The researchers also calculated how many people developed colorectal cancer during the study period.

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what the results show

Higher intake of polyphenols, as well as specific polymodulatory compounds such as tyrosol and hydroxybenzoic acid, was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer. However, the results showed that blacks had lower polyphenol intakes than whites.

“In this study, the polyphenol intake of the black participants was generally half that of the white participants,” Samuels said. “In particular, black participants ate 30 percent less phenethyl alcohol, tyrosol, a dietary antioxidant found primarily in olives and olive oil that can reach high concentrations in the colon. The reduction in intake may be related to associated with a 6.5% increased risk of colorectal cancer.”

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Compared to those with the lowest polyphenol intake, participants with higher intakes were more likely to be white, older, higher-income and had healthier diets overall, Samuels said.

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what the findings mean

colorectal cancer

The study’s authors wrote, “Differences in polyphenol intake may lead to increased [colorectal cancer] Incidence in African American individuals. ”

Valerie Agyeman, RD, women’s health dietitian and host of The Flourish Heights podcast, told VigorTip that the study’s data “is very important because it tells us that social determinants have a direct impact on health outcomes for disadvantaged groups, especially learning , low-income families and the black community.”

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Increase your polyphenol intake

Diet is only one piece of the puzzle of preventing colorectal cancer, but making an effort to increase polyphenol intake can help people reduce their risk.

“An easy way to add more polyphenols to your diet is to drink coffee and use olive oil when cooking at low or no heat,” Samuels said, adding that “according to this recent study, 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olives The tyrosol concentration in the oil is sufficient to achieve a level that reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.”

According to Samuels, since most fruits also contain high levels of polyphenols, “adding 1-2 handfuls of berries, cherries, sliced ​​plums, sliced ​​black grapes, or pears per day is an easy way to add more antioxidants to your diet.”

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Here are some other foods you can add to your diet to get more polyphenols:

  • Vegetables such as broccoli, carrots and other colorful produce
  • Nuts, Dark Chocolate and Real Tea

If you already make red wine part of your diet, drinking up to one glass of red wine a day for women and two glasses a day for men can also increase your polyphenol intake.

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promote health

Agyeman, who was not involved in the study, said “health promotion programs and strategies should be prioritized in disadvantaged communities to increase awareness of polyphenol-rich foods such as berries, citrus fruits and dark leafy greens.”

According to Agyeman, more needs to be done beyond encouraging blacks to eat more polyphenols because “there are many factors that can determine why an individual may not be consuming more polyphenols. [these nutrients] Potentially reduce cancer risk, including access to nutritious foods, education levels, and income. ”

It may not be as simple as sharing a list of polyphenol-rich foods with certain groups of people; helping people overcome barriers to accessing these foods is necessary to help them proactively manage their health and reduce their risk of disease.

what does this mean to you

Black people have a higher risk of colorectal cancer, and low polyphenol intake may in part contribute to the increased risk. Healthcare providers need to recognize barriers and provide patients with the tools and resources they need so they can take an active interest in their health.

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