What you eat can affect inflammation in your bowels and gut, and inflammation is a predisposing factor for colorectal cancer development. Researchers have identified the main food substances that cause inflammation in the body and may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer: Sugar, animal fats, and red and processed meats.
“What we’re trying to investigate on the more molecular level is which of these substances could be having an effect on colorectal cancer development,” says Dr. Pigazzi.
Sugar: Sugar, especially processed sugar like high fructose corn syrup, is ubiquitous — it’s found in candy, sodas, and cereals, as well as breads and packaged foods. Part of Dr. Pigazzi’s research is to investigate whether fructose feeds tumor growth — something researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine have witnessed in animal studies thus far. “Is fructose an energy source for colorectal cancer?” asks Dr. Pigazzi. “That’s something we’re keen on finding out.”
Animal fats: Animal fats can cause severe chronic inflammation, especially if eaten over a long period of time, which can also lead to obesity and type 2 diabetes. “Obesity is an inflammatory state that affects the whole body,” says Dr. Pigazzi. “Obese patients have an increased risk of colorectal cancer, and there is growing evidence that it’s because these patients live in a pro-inflammatory environment.”
Red and processed meats: Bacon, salami, hot dogs, and deli meats … these, too, can cause inflammation, obesity, diabetes, and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The exact reason is still to be determined, but the numbers show a correlation: A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that people who ate red or processed meat four or more times a week had a 20% higher risk of colorectal cancer than those who indulged in them twice a week or less.