Why People With Colon Cancer May Want to Eat More Nuts

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Here’s one more reason why nuts are a smart and healthy choice when you need a quick snack.

A study to be unveiled at the American Society of Clinical Oncology convention June 2-6 in Chicago shows that among people with stage II colon cancer, those who ate nuts — tree nuts, specifically — slashed their chance of cancer recurrence and death roughly in half.

Credit: Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

“Basic healthy eating can often be overlooked in cancer treatment,” ASCO President Dr. Daniel F. Hayes underscored in a news release. “Nut consumption and a healthy diet are generally factors that clinicians and patients should perhaps pay attention to as they design the approach to treatment for colorectal cancer.”

That doesn’t mean you should pop open a can of Planters instead of going to chemotherapy treatment if you have colon cancer.

Related: New Research May Explain Why More African-Americans Get Colon Cancer

“It should be emphasized that the authors are not suggesting that eating nuts should be considered a substitute for standard chemotherapy and other treatments for colon cancer, which have dramatically increased survival,” Hayes said.

Peanut Butter Doesn’t Cut It

On average, people with stage III colon cancer have up to a 70 percent chance of surviving three years after surgery, chemotherapy and other treatments. The National Institutes of Health increasingly is funding research that looks at the power of nutrition.

The research to be presented at the conference examined 826 stage II colon cancer patients. Those who ate two ounces or more of nuts per week had a 42 percent reduced chance of cancer recurrence and a 57 percent lower chance of death than those who did not eat nuts.

Credit: Daniella Segura/Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Peanuts, however, did not count. Those who ate only peanuts or peanut butter did not see the benefits.

The beneficial tree nuts include almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, cashews and pecans. The benefits were seen regardless of age, body mass index, gender and even general changes to a tumor during treatment.

The researchers wanted to conduct the study because they knew tree nuts lowered the chances of obesity and type II diabetes.

“These health conditions represent a state of excess energy and are each associated with a higher risk of recurrence and death from colon cancer,” according to the news release.

Rates on the Rise in Millennials

The news comes on the coattails of an alarming study showing colon cancer has skyrocketed among young people.

A study published in February of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed that people born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer as Americans who were born in 1950.

Diet is likely a major part of the problem.

Related: Colon Cancer Rates Are Increasing Among Millennials

“Trends in young people are a bellwether for the future disease burden,” said Rebecca Siegel, strategic director of surveillance information services for the American Cancer Society, in a news release.

“Our finding that colorectal cancer risk for millennials has escalated back to the level of those born in the late 1800s is very sobering,” she added.

Siegel said more educational campaigns are needed to educate doctors and patients about the importance of healthy eating and an active lifestyle.

A professional journalist nearly 30 years, David Heitz started his career at the Quad-City Times in Davenport, Iowa before moving to Los Angeles. He led the Glendale News-Press to best small daily newspaper in the state (CNPA) as managing editor and also worked as executive news editor of the Press-Telegram. He worked briefly as deputy news editor of the Detroit News before returning to the Quad-Cities, where he has worked as a freelance medical writer since 2012 for several national websites. He recently purchased his childhood home and says he truly is “living the dream.”