Although diet has long been suspected as an etiological factor for colorectal cancer, studies of single foods and nutrients have provided inconsistent results.
We used factor analysis methods to study associations between dietary patterns and colorectal cancer in middle-aged Americans.
Diet was assessed among 293,615 men and 198,767 women in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Principal components factor analysis identified 3 primary dietary patterns: a fruit and vegetables, a diet foods, and a red meat and potatoes pattern. State cancer registries identified 2151 incident cases of colorectal cancer in men and 959 in women between 1995 and 2000.
Men with high scores on the fruit and vegetable pattern were at decreased risk [relative risk (RR) for quintile (Q) 5 versus Q1: 0.81; 95% CI: 0.70, 0.93; P for trend = 0.004]. Both men and women had a similar risk reduction with high scores on the diet food factor: men (RR: 0.82; 95% CI: 0.72, 0.94; P for trend = 0.001) and women (RR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.71, 1.07; P for trend = 0.06). High scores on the red meat factor were associated with increased risk: men (RR: 1.17; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.35; P for trend = 0.14) and women (RR: 1.48; 95% CI: 1.20, 1.83; P for trend = 0.0002).
These results suggest that dietary patterns characterized by a low frequency of meat and potato consumption and frequent consumption of fruit and vegetables and fat-reduced foods are consistent with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.