Walnuts may be able to lower the risk of colon cancer reoccurrence. Photo: Edward Wong

Certain nut varieties may ward off colon cancer recurrence, research finds

Scientists have found that eating just a handful of nuts a week, such as almonds, pecans and cashews, could reduce the risk of colon cancer returning by almost half

Eating certain kinds of tree nuts, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts and cashews, has been linked to dramatically lowering the risk of colon cancer recurrence, researchers have found.

The observational study involved more than 820 patients who had undergone treatment for stage III colon cancer, typically including surgery and chemotherapy.

Such patients, whose cancer has not spread elsewhere in the body, have a 70 per cent chance of surviving three years after treatment.

Some 19 per cent of patients consumed about a handful of nuts per week.

These nut-eaters saw a 42 per cent lower chance of cancer recurrence, and a 57 per cent lower chance of death than patients who did not eat nuts after finishing their cancer treatment, said the report, released ahead of the American Society for Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, held in Chicago next month.

When researchers looked only at tree nut consumption, the chance of cancer recurrence was 46 per cent lower and the chance of death was 53 per cent lower for those who ate at least 60 grams per week, compared to people who did not eat nuts.

Peanuts and peanut butter did not appear to have any significant effect.

Patients who ate tree nuts, such as cashews, lowered their risk of cancer recurrence. Photo: Shutterstock

“Numerous studies in the fields of heart disease and diabetes have shown the benefits of nut consumption, and we felt that it was important to determine if these benefits could also apply to colorectal cancer patients,” said study author Temidayo Fadelu, a clinical fellow in medicine at Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

“Patients with advanced disease who benefit from chemotherapy frequently ask what else they can do to reduce their chances of recurrence or death, and our study is an important contribution to the idea that modifying diet and physical activity can be beneficial.”

However the experts did state that eating nuts should not be considered a substitute for standard chemotherapy and other treatments for colon cancer.

“Rather, patients with colon cancer should be optimistic, and they should eat a healthy diet, including tree nuts, which may not only keep them healthier, but may also further decrease the chances of the cancer coming back,” said ASCO president Daniel Hayes.

Researchers cautioned that the study was observational nature and did not prove cause and effect.