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March 11, 2020 | 3 minute read

Healthier Diets May Improve Quality of Life and Lower Depression After Colorectal Cancer

WASHINGTON, DC – New research funded by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) Network shows that dietary interventions can improve the quality of life of, as well as lower depression in, colorectal cancer survivors.

The study was carried out by researchers at the University of Hong Kong and the University of Birmingham, UK. It shows that people who ate less red and processed meat and refined grains after their cancer treatment reported a better quality of life after 12 months than those who did not receive the intervention and instead had ‘usual care.’ They also had significantly lower levels of depression.

Usual care consisted of receiving five leaflets on healthy lifestyles by mail over a 12-month period. Whereas the intervention included a mix of face-to-face meetings, motivational phone calls, newsletters, group meetings, and information leaflets specific to how motivated each person was to change their behavior.

223 people with a range of stages of colorectal cancer (stage I to IV) were included in the research. The trial measured both the general quality of life and cancer specific quality of life, such as levels of pain and fear of dying from their illness, were measured.

Dr. Anna Diaz Font, Head of Research Funding at WCRF, said, “As more and more people are surviving cancer thanks to improved treatments and earlier diagnosis, it becomes increasingly important to find ways to help people live well after a cancer diagnosis.

We know that diet is linked to cancer risk, but it is encouraging that it may also help people have a better quality of life after cancer.”

Dr. Nigel Brockton, Vice President Research at American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) said, “Randomized trials provide causative evidence not just associations. Therefore, despite being a relatively small study, this trial provides the highest quality evidence that positive dietary changes can actually improve quality of life.”

The lead researcher, Dr. Judy Ho, said, “Our research shows that a structured intervention with a focus on eating healthier, by reducing red and processed meat consumption and eating more whole grains, can alleviate depression and improve quality of life in colorectal cancer patients who have just completed cancer treatment. Next steps and future research should apply these dietary interventions to longer-term studies, and crucially, look at how diet affects cancer recurrence.”

Note to editors:

Funded by WCRF’s Netherlands office, Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds.

About the American Institute for Cancer Research

Our vision: We want to live in a world where no one develops a preventable cancer.

Our mission: The American Institute for Cancer Research champions the latest and most authoritative scientific research from around the world on cancer prevention and survival through diet, weight and physical activity so that we can help people make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their cancer risk.

We have contributed over $109 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospital and research centers across the country. Find evidence-based tools and information for lowering cancer risk, including AICR’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations, at aicr.org.


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