2005-12-14

Health & Stats: Fibre May Not Be Significant in Bowel Cancer

An high-fibre diet will not help to reduce the risk of getting bowel cancer, according to a major study published today 2005-12-14. Researchers in the USA studied the records of more than 725_000 men and women over a 6-/20- year period to assess the effect of eating a high-fibre diet on the chance of getting the disease. They initially found that the group eating the most fibre was less likely to suffer bowel cancer, but when other factors -- such as alcohol, red meat and vitamin consumption -- were taken into account there was a 'non-significant' effect. Nevertheless eating fibre is still recommended by 'Cancer Research UK' to reduce the risk of bowel cancer. The authors of the report, to be published in 'The Journal of the American Medical Association' ('JAMA'), said previous studies which found eating a high-fibre diet was beneficial had failed to adjust sufficiently for other influences on the chance of getting the disease. The report, by Yikyung Park, formerly of 'The Harvard School of Public Health', Boston, and team, said:
'We did not find support for an association between dietary fibre intake and risk of colorectal [bowel] cancer. 'After accounting for other risk factors, high dietary fibre intake was not associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.'
However, the researchers stressed that people should still eat fibre.
'Although high dietary fibre intake may not have a major effect on the risk of colorectal cancer, a diet high in dietary fibre from whole plant foods can be advised because this has been related to lower risks of other chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes,' the report said.
Of the 725_628 people whose records were examined -- who previously took part in 13 other, separate studies in Europe and the USA -- the researchers said 8_081 cases of bowel cancer were diagnosed. Those who ate the most fibre were found to have a 16 per cent lower chance of getting the disease than those who ate the least amount of fibre. But this apparent benefit fell when the scientists took non-dietary factors, the use of multivitamins and total energy intake into account. And when other dietary considerations were looked at, including red meat, milk and alcohol intake, it virtually disappeared. However, other experts stressed that the study did not prove that fibre had no role to play in reducing bowel cancer rates. In an editorial in 'JAMA', Mr.John Baron, of 'Dartmouth Medical School' in New Hampshire, USA, said the idea that fibre could guard against bowel cancer went back to the 1960s, when it was suggested that low rates of the disease in southern Africa were connected to the population's high-fibre diet. He pointed to previous studies, which found that people who ate the most fibre were 40 per cent less likely to get bowel cancer than those who ate the least. And Mr.Baron added:
'The findings [of the new report] ... provide at least some indications that dietary fibre of some sort is related in some way to colon or rectal cancer risk. 'These findings suggest that colorectal cancer might be sort of a 'fibre deficiency disease', such that a relatively modest minimum intake prevents an increased risk. 'But understanding longer-term relationships with any type of fibre will require more work.'
Professor Mr.Tim Key, an epidemiologist at 'Cancer Research UK', said:
'In this new study the authors suggest that some of the increase in risk for bowel cancer among people with a low fibre intake may be due to other features of their diet -- such as low intake of the vitamin folic acid. 'But, even allowing for the possible influence of folic acid and other dietary factors, they still found that people with the lowest fibre intake had almost a 20 per cent higher risk for bowel cancer.'
'High-fibre diet may not cut risks of bowel cancer', Ian Johnston, The Scotsman, 2005-12-14 Links: Beating Bowel Cancer charity (http://www.bowelcancer.org/ )

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