Can Plant-Based Diets Curb The Rising Rate Of Colon Cancer In Men?

Excluding skin cancers, cancer of the colon or rectum is the third most common cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Because older adults are heeding doctors' warnings to get screened more frequently and make lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, the rate of those diagnosed with the disease has seen an overall drop since the 1980s. However, the incidence of colorectal cancer in young adults has been on the rise since the 1990s.

Colorectal cancer typically begins as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum called a polyp (per ACS). Anyone can develop polyps, and people over 50 are more likely to have them, but smoking and obesity are identified as two of the main contributors to the formation of polyps (per Mayo Clinic).

Maintaining a plant-based diet has been linked to a considerable array of health benefits. Different from vegetarians, people who eat plant-based diets can still have meat. However, they focus primarily on getting their nutrients from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and beans (per Harvard Health). From improving heart health, blood pressure, and cholesterol, to aiding in weight loss and staving off type-2 diabetes, it has been proven that making whole foods the star of your menu is key to a longer and healthier life (per Everyday Health). This includes reducing the risk of colon cancer, according to a new study.

Plant-based diets reduce the risk of colon cancer

Adding to the laundry list of health benefits related to plant-based eating, a 2022 study published in BMC found that men who eat the most plant-based foods could reduce their risk of colon cancer by 22% when compared to those who ate the least (per USA Today). 

While men who ate the most plant-based foods had a lower risk of colon cancer, the association was strongest in Japanese American, Native Hawaiian, and white men than in others (per Medical News Today). And women who ate mostly plant-based didn't see the same benefits. The research team suggests that the link may be clearer for men because they have an overall higher risk of developing colon cancer, per USA Today. According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women.

"We speculate that the antioxidants found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains could contribute to lowering colorectal cancer risk by suppressing chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer," said Jihye Kim, author of the study (per News Medical).