A Colon Cancer Treatment That Grows on Trees?

posted may 25, 2017

According to a recent study to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology being held in Chicago in June, consuming two or more servings of tree nuts per week “may be associated with significantly reduced cancer recurrence and death in patients with stage III colon cancer (CC).” Specifically, the study found that people with stage III colon cancer who ate at least two servings of tree nuts weekly had a 42 percent improvement in disease-free survival (DFS) and a 57 percent approval in overall survival (OS).

nutsIn other words, if you’ve been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer, follow your doctor’s orders to obtain the best available treatment(s), and eat a couple servings of tree nuts per week. (Servings are relatively small; for example, a serving of almonds is one ounce — about a quarter cup, a handful, or 23 almonds.) Here’s a list of common tree nuts:

  • Almonds
  • Brazil nuts
  • Cashews
  • Chestnuts
  • Filberts (hazelnuts)
  • Hickory nuts
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pecans
  • Pine nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts

Before you start shaking any trees to harvest your weekly allotment, note that the conclusion of this study includes the word “may” — eating two or more servings of tree nuts may significantly reduce cancer recurrence and death in patients with stage III colon cancer.

Observational versus controlled results

The problem with this study, which was led by scientists at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, is that it’s an observational study, as opposed to a controlled study. In a controlled study, researchers are careful to maintain identical conditions for all participants, changing only one independent variable for a subgroup of participants to determine the effect of that change. In an observational study, researchers don’t control all possible variables, so they can’t reliably conclude that a certain variable is solely responsible for the difference in outcomes among participants.

For example, in this study, participants who reported eating two or more servings of nuts per week may have engaged in other healthy behaviors, such as not smoking, eating a healthier diet overall, and exercising regularly. Any of those or other variables, or a combination of variables, could be responsible for the observed reduction in colon cancer recurrence.

In addition, the study relied on participants to report their own eating habits, and when you rely on people to report anything, the evidence you collect isn’t the most accurate. People may fudge the truth, reporting that they eat healthier than they really do, or they may not recall accurately what they ate.

Cashews or chemotherapy

At this point, you’re probably thinking, “Oh, nuts! I was hoping to replace chemo with a couple handfuls of cashews.” Unfortunately, until researchers have results from controlled studies showing that eating tree nuts is at least as effective as medical treatment, stick with the medical treatment and do your best to live a healthier lifestyle:

  • Engage in some sort of challenging physical activity regularly
  • Eat a healthy diet — veggies, nuts, fruits, whole grains, and protein
  • Avoid or at least reduce consumption of the bad stuff — alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, drugs, fast food, processed food, and sugar and other sweeteners

As part of your new healthier lifestyle, consider eating a couple handfuls of tree nuts every week. It can’t hurt (unless you’re allergic), and it certainly can help! Besides, nuts are tasty and high in fiber, so they can contribute to a richer life and a healthier, happier bathroom experience — our personal mission at Squatty Potty.

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Disclaimer: This blog post about how consuming nuts may be linked to higher survival rates in colon cancer patients provides general information and discussion about medical issues and health-related subject matter. The words and other content provided in this post, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If you or any other person has a medical concern, consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care professional immediately and do not rely on the information presented in this post. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog post or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.

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