Cancer causes evade nutritionists

Related tags Cancer Colorectal cancer Breast cancer

Dietary patterns are not consistent predictors of cancer, reports a
major European research project, but while foods cannot take the
blame for development of the disease, diet could alter the effect
of contributing factors.

Eating a diet rich in vegetables, oils, poultry and fish is inversely associated with colon cancer in women, while a dietary pattern including processed meat and potatoes raises this risk, finds a European study, revealing the difficulty in assessing the role of diet in one of Europe's leading causes of premature death.

Researchers examining the relationship between dietary patterns and cancer in Finland, Sweden, Italy and the Netherlands report that no single nutrient or food is linked to cancer development. Dietary patterns are also inconsistent predictors of certain cancers.

Cancer is one of the main causes of premature death in Europe; one in four Europeans had, has, or will develop, cancer during their lifetime. The EU-funded Concerted Action project reveals that while it is not possible to pinpoint dietary factors as causal or inhibitory to the development of cancers, it is plausible that diet modifies the effect of causal factors.

The researchers used food frequency questionnaires to obtain dietary pattern data from four cohort studies in Italy, Finland, Sweden and The Netherlands.

The study found that there were identifiable patterns of food groups consumed by people and two dietary patterns in particular: the first based on vegetables or salad, oil, poultry, rice, pasta and fish; and the second including pork, processed meat and potatoes, along with eggs, butter and coffee.

But these two dietary patterns were not found to be consistent predictors of the risk from two of the most prevalent cancers in Europe: breast cancer and colorectal cancer. The 'vegetable' dietary pattern was not clearly associated with breast cancer in any of the studies, was inversely associated with colon cancer in Dutch women, and was positively associated with rectal cancer in Finnish men. Conversely, the 'pork, processed meat and potatoes' dietary pattern was positively associated with colon cancer in the Swedish cohort and with rectal cancer in Finland.

Previous findings have suggested a link between dairy fat and breast cancer, as well as diets rich in red meat, however results from human trials have not consistently supported the theory. Using food frequency questionnaires may not be the most reliable method of investigating this link, suggest researchers recently​.

For more information on the Dietscan project (QLK1-1999-00575), contact Dr R.A. Bausch-Goldbohm​.

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