Bowel cancer risk

| 24 January 2023
minute reading time

Reduced by plant foods

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer and the fourth most common cause of cancer death worldwide. This large, multi-ethnic study looked at the diets of around 80,000 men and 93,000 women in the US. They found that men who ate the most fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and seeds had a 22 per cent lower risk of developing bowel cancer compared to those eating the least. The link was not seen in women.

They suggest fibre, which is only found in plant foods, might be responsible along with compounds in fruit and vegetables called polyphenols and carotenoids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The beneficial effects of plant foods on the gut microbiota may also play a role. Women in general consume more plant foods and less animal foods compared to men so they might already be obtaining the benefit.

These findings support eating more healthy plant foods and reducing animal foods to help prevent bowel cancer.

Kim J, Boushey CJ, Wilkens LR et al. 2022. Plant-based dietary patterns defined by a priori indices and colorectal cancer risk by sex and race/ethnicity: the Multiethnic Cohort Study. BMC Medicine. 20, 430.


About the author
Dr. Justine Butler
Justine joined Viva! in 2005 after graduating from Bristol University with a PhD in molecular biology. After working as a campaigner, then researcher and writer, she is now Viva!’s head of research and her work focuses on animals, the environment and health. Justine’s scientific training helps her research and write both in-depth scientific reports, such as White Lies and the Meat Report, as well as easy-to-read factsheets and myth-busting articles for consumer magazines and updates on the latest research. Justine also recently wrote the Vegan for the Planet guide for Viva!’s Vegan Now campaign.

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