Fish and Exercise May Help Colon Cancer Patients

Colon cancer recurrence more likely in patients who ate less fish and exercised less often

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Plenty of research has tied lifestyle factors to risk for developing cancer. Could these factors also play into how cancer progresses once it has already developed? A new study suggests so.

This new study examined a number of lifestyle factors in colon cancer patients from several different countries.

The study found that exercising and eating fish was tied to a lower risk for recurrence of colon cancer throughout the patients' lives.

"Make physical activity a part of your normal routine."

According to the authors of this study, led by Mohammed Shaik, MD, of the Breslin Cancer Center at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan, "Dietary factors and physical activity have been associated with the risk of occurrence of colon cancer but their role in the recurrence of colon cancer has not been established."

Dr. Shaik and team wanted to explore how lifestyle factors like diet and exercise affected the risk of colon cancer recurring (coming back). To do so, they used data from the Global Epidemiological Study, which included colon cancer patients from Poland, Vietnam, Western Europe and the United States.

The 1,515 patients (54.3 percent men and 46.7 percent women) included in this study provided data on their exercise activity and diet. Of these patients, 188 had cancer recur later in life.

The researchers compared the diet and exercise habits and tobacco and alcohol use of those who had cancer recur and those who did not. Dr. Shaik and team found no associations between these lifestyle factors, except for certain levels of exercise and consumption of fish.

The patients who ate less than two servings of fish per week were 2.58 times more likely to have colon cancer recur. Those who had less than 60 minutes of exercise a week were 2.68 times more likely to have colon cancer recur.

"Fish consumption of more than 2 [servings] per week and also 60 minutes of weekly exercise, were each independently associated with a reduced risk of recurrence of colon cancer," wrote Dr. Shaik and team.

In an interview with dailyRx News, Deborah Gordon, MD, operator of an integrative medical practice based in Ashland, Oregon, said that these findings are well-aligned with what we already know about the health benefits of eating fish.

"Eating omega-3-rich fish (salmon, cod, herring and other cold water fish) has been previously identified with a reduced breast cancer risk," said Dr. Gordon.

"The twice-weekly fish frequency has been shown to be associated with reduced cardiovascular risk, even in high-risk patients, and healthy brain function — reduced rates of depression and other cognitive functions," she explained.

"I recommend to my patients that they enjoy wild-caught fish twice a week (relying primarily on red meat and poultry for other protein sources) and that at least one time the fish be from cold water for the extra boost of omega-3's," said Dr. Gordon.

"Although some people worry about the mercury load identified in seafood, most fish contains adequate selenium, which binds with mercury in our digestive tracts and prevents us from absorbing the mercury. We don't absorb the selenium either, so continued enjoyment of Brazil nuts and organ meats can help keep selenium levels normal," Dr. Gordon told dailyRx News.

"Eating fish more than twice a week will not be harmful to your health in the short run, but in the long run it is very reasonable to be concerned about the continued availability of seafood," said Dr. Gordon. "We have drastically reduced the numbers of wild fish, so you are doing your part to help protect the oceans if you choose good wild-caught fish and enjoy it twice a week!"

This study was presented June 2 at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual meeting in Chicago. Studies presented at conferences are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Review Date: 
June 4, 2014
Last Updated:
June 6, 2014