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The high risk of meat-heavy diets
Letter to the Editor
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Published: 9/8/2007 1:13 AM

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Meat-heavy diets have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer -- but now they're also linked to disease recurrence. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that colon cancer survivors who consume a "Western" diet high in red and processed meats, fats, and refined grains are three times more likely to develop the disease again.

As a dietitian, I think this study confirms the urgent need for more education -- especially from doctors -- about how healthy diets can aid in cancer prevention and survival. There's a fast-growing body of research that supports a low-fat, plant-based diet as one of the keys to preventing cancer. In fact, one study showed that a high-fiber vegetarian diet can help repair damaged DNA and decrease the amount of time that cancer-causing compounds stay in the colon.

About 52,150 people will die from colorectal cancer in 2007. Given all the information we have about how fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other vegetarian foods can help prevent cancer and tumor recurrence, isn't it time for good nutrition to move to the front lines in the battle against cancer?

Jennifer K. Reilly, R.D.

Senior Nutritionist

The Cancer Project

Washington, D.C.