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FIBER AND CANCER: PREVENTION OR MYTH
Dietary fibre has been purported to have beneficial effects on colorectal cancer presumably by increasing colon transit time and thus reducing exposure of the intestine lining to potentially harmful carcinogenous chemicals present in our diet. The lack of fibre in our diet coupled with increased red meat and saturated fat intake has long been associated with increased colorectal cancer rates.

Evidence in this regard has been noted in population based studies which show that immigrant populations develop the same rates of colorectal cancer as the resident population after prolonged exposure (Japanese Hawaiians) to the environment.
Some population based studies at variance with this theory. What is thought to be a confounding problem is that there are now known to be 2 mechanisms that cause colorectal cancer. Firstly, the development of colorectal cancer from small polyps progressively, known as the “carcinoma-adenoma sequence” (CA). This affects more left sided (distal) tumours. Secondly, the mechanism of “micro satellite-instability” (MI) due to mutations of genes that prevent cell repair.  These increase the chances of cancer developing. This form of cancer affects more the right-sided (proximal) tumours.

The problem arises because MI is transmitted genetically. The CA mechanism is more likely to follow the low fibre, high fat, and smoking and obesity associations. Studies are now being pursued to separate the cancers caused by the 2 mechanisms and to link this to diet.
The current recommendations found in the European Journal of Cancer prevention still support high fibre, low fat and meat intake on the basis of current evidence.
Other Articles
Constipation and Fibre: Does increasing intake help?
Fibre and Cancer: Prevention or Myth?


 
 
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