Study: Plant Foods, Following AICR Recommendations Lowers Colorectal Cancer Risk

10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention
10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention

A new independently-conducted study confirms that eating plenty of plant foods, being active and following AICR’s other Recommendations for Cancer Prevention lowers the risk of colorectal cancer. The more closely people followed the recommendations, the lower their risk.

The study, published in the European Journal of Cancer, builds on previous research that have tested AICR’s recommendations in real-world populations. AICR research estimates that eating healthy, limiting alcohol and being a healthy weight could prevent 47 percent of US colorectal cancer cases.

In the new paper, investigators pooled data from two Italian studies that had compared patients who already were diagnosed with colorectal cancer to those without. These case-control studies included 2,419 patients with colorectal cancer and 4,723 controls. 

All the participants answered questions in the hospital about their eating, activity, alcohol and other lifestyle habits along family history of the disease and other relevant questions. Everyone reported their weight at several ages throughout life and currently and or/before they were diagnosed. 

After scoring how closely participants followed 7 of AICR’s recommendations, the study found that those who most closely followed the recommendations overall had over 30 percent lower risk compared to those who least followed them. This is after taking into account age, gender, family history and other relevant risk factors. Similar risk reductions were seen when focusing only on the diet-focused recommendations. (The study did not look at the recommendation on supplements.)

The specific recommendations that showed the greatest risk reduction included eating mostly plant foods, limiting salt, and limiting sugary, high-fat foods that promote weight gain.  

Study researchers then used population data to predict the impact of increasing adherence to the highest level; they estimate that this would lower the incidence of colorectal cancer in this population by 18 percent. The estimated risk reduction by shifting everyone to one category higher - a more realistic change —  was 10 percent.

There are several limitations to this study and case-control studies overall, such as possible selection and memory bias. The findings seen in this population may also not apply to others. 

Yet as the authors note, this is one of many studies investigating how following AICR recommendations link to colorectal cancer risk. They differ in details but they overall point to lower risk with increased adherence.

The study was funded by the Italian Foundation for Cancer Research and the Italian Association for Research on Cancer.

AICR released a new report on colorectal cancer last month, which analyzed the global evidence on diet, nutrition, physical activity and weight . For the latest findings and to download the report visit our Continuous Update Project section:


Turati, Federica et al, Adherence to the World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research recommendations and colorectal cancer ris. European Journal of Cancer , Volume 85 , 86 - 94.

AICR and World Cancer Research Fund. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Colorectal Cancer. September, 2017.

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    Published on October 4, 2017

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