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Surg Clin North Am. 1993 Feb;73(1):13-29.

Dietary factors related to colorectal neoplasms.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.


Although the etiology of colorectal cancer is multifactorial, experimental evidence suggests a role for dietary factors in the promotion of this disease. The complex interrelations governing energy balance and the consumption of fat, fiber, and micronutrients make it difficult to define the precise role of specific dietary factors in the etiology of colorectal neoplasms. Epidemiologic studies have demonstrated a correlation between the prevalence of colorectal cancer and per capita consumption of meat and fat. Case-control studies investigating the relation between colorectal cancer and dietary fat consumption have yielded inconsistent results. Prospective studies have failed to demonstrate a relation between fat consumption and subsequent risk for colorectal cancer. There is an inverse correlation between fiber intake and the prevalence of colorectal carcinoma. A more detailed analysis of the influence of various types of dietary fiber on the subsequent risk for colorectal cancer will provide a better understanding of this relation. Fiber derived from fruits and vegetables may provide more effective protection than cereal fibers. Correlational studies have established an association between total caloric intake and the prevalence of colorectal carcinoma. The design of future studies investigating the influence of individual dietary constituents on the risk for colorectal cancer must control for variations in energy balance as a confounding variable. Recent evidence suggests that a variety of micronutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, selenium, and vitamins A, C, and E, exert an anticarcinogenic effect. Studies designed to evaluate the influence of alcohol consumption on colorectal carcinogenesis have yielded inconclusive results. The potential influence of food preparation methods on colorectal carcinogenesis requires further evaluation. There is no conclusive evidence to support any of the hypotheses proposed to explain the role of dietary factors in colorectal carcinogenesis. Intervention trials designed to monitor intermediate markers for colorectal cancer such as increased epithelial-cell proliferation rates and the development of aberrant crypt architecture provide the opportunity for testing these hypotheses in relatively short-term studies. The results from such studies can be utilized in the design of large-scale, long-term prospective studies to evaluate the influence of dietary factors on the development of colorectal neoplasms. These trials should generate the information required to develop strategies for diet modification to reduce the incidence of colorectal carcinoma.

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