Paleo Diet Linked to Lower Risk of Colorectal Cancer

He has no interest in colon cancer prevention

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the 3rd most common cancer diagnosed in Los Estados Unidos. I bet it’s the same in Europe. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 (4.3%) for men and 1 in 25 (4.0%) for women. Physicians believe that colon cancer originates in colon polyps (usually adenomas), which is why your gastroenterologist removes polyps when he finds them during colonoscopy.

From the American Cancer Society:

Most colorectal cancers start as a growth on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps.

Some types of polyps can change into cancer over time (usually many years), but not all polyps become cancer. The chance of a polyp turning into cancer depends on the type of polyp it is. There are different types of polyps.

  • Adenomatous polyps (adenomas): These polyps sometimes change into cancer. Because of this, adenomas are called a pre-cancerous condition. The 3 types of adenomas are tubular, villous, and tubulovillous. 
  • Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps: These polyps are more common, but in general they are not pre-cancerous. Some people with large (more than 1cm) hyperplastic polyps might need colorectal cancer screening with colonoscopy more often. 
  • Sessile serrated polyps (SSP) and traditional serrated adenomas (TSA): These polyps are often treated like adenomas because they have a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

A recent study suggests that the paleo diet may lower risk of colorectal cancer. I haven’t read the full study report. Are we changing the “paleo diet” to “evolutionary-concordance diet and lifestyle pattern”? ECDLP? I don’t think so.


Differences in diet and lifestyle relative to those of our Paleolithic-era ancestors may explain current high incidences of chronic diseases, including colorectal cancer (CRC), in Westernized countries. Previously reported evolutionary-concordance diet and lifestyle pattern scores, reflecting closeness of diet and lifestyle patterns to those of Paleolithic-era humans, were associated with lower CRC incidence. Separate and joint associations of the scores with colorectal adenoma among men and women are unknown. To address this, we pooled data from three case-control studies of incident, sporadic colorectal adenomas (n = 771 cases, 1,990 controls), used participants’ responses to food frequency and lifestyle questionnaires to calculate evolutionary-concordance diet and lifestyle pattern scores, and estimated the scores’ associations with adenomas using multivariable unconditional logistic regression. The multivariable-adjusted odds ratios comparing those in the highest relative to the lowest diet and lifestyle score quintiles were 0.84 (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.62, 1.12; Ptrend:0.03) and 0.41 (95% CI 0.29, 0.59; Ptrend:<0.0001), respectively. The inverse associations were stronger for high-risk adenomas, and among those with both high relative to those with both low diet and lifestyle scores. These results suggest that more evolutionary-concordant diet and lifestyle patterns, separately and jointly, may be associated with lower risk for incident, sporadic colorectal adenoma.

Steve Parker, M.D.

Reference at Nutrition and Cancer: Associations of Evolutionary-Concordance Diet and Lifestyle Pattern Scores with Incident, Sporadic Colorectal Adenoma in a Pooled Case-Control Study

PS: Another diet linked to lower risk of colon cancer is the Mediterranean diet.

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