Whether the intake of dietary fiber can protect against colorectal cancer is a long-standing question of considerable public health import, but the epidemiologic evidence has been inconsistent.
The objective was to investigate the relation between dietary fiber and whole-grain food intakes and invasive colorectal cancer in the prospective National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study.
The analytic cohort consisted of 291 988 men and 197 623 women aged 50-71 y. Diet was assessed with a self-administered food-frequency questionnaire at baseline in 1995-1996; 2974 incident colorectal cancer cases were identified during 5 y of follow-up. The Cox proportional hazards model was used to estimate the relative risks (RRs) and 95% CIs.
Total dietary fiber intake was not associated with colorectal cancer. The multivariate RR for the highest compared with the lowest intake quintile (RR(Q5-Q1)) was 0.99 (95% CI: 0.85, 1.15; P for trend = 0.96). In analyses of fiber from different food sources, only fiber from grains was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer (multivariate RR(Q5-Q1): 0.86; 95% CI: 0.76, 0.98; P for trend = 0.01). Whole-grain intake was inversely associated with colorectal cancer risk: the multivariate RR(Q5-Q1) was 0.79 (95% CI: 0.70, 0.89) for the whole cohort (P for trend < 0.001). The association with whole grain was stronger for rectal than for colon cancer.
In this large prospective cohort study, total dietary fiber intake was not associated with colorectal cancer risk, whereas whole-grain consumption was associated with a modest reduced risk.