All of the patients in the study had received surgery and chemotherapy to treat their colon cancers
Colon cancer survivors who ate at least two ounces (57 grams) of tree nuts a week — roughly 48 almonds or 36 cashews — were significantly less likely to have their cancer return or to die from their cancer than those who did not eat nuts, US researchers said.
The finding by Dr Temidayo Fadelu of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and colleagues is the latest to suggest a health benefit from nut consumption.
The researchers analysed a questionnaire about dietary intake from a clinical trial of 826 patients with stage III colon cancer – a stage in which the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes but not other parts of the body.
All of the patients in the study had received surgery and chemotherapy to treat their colon cancers.
People who reported that they ate more than two ounces of tree nuts per week – about 19 per cent of the study participants – had a 42 per cent lower chance of cancer recurrence and a 57 per cent lower chance of death than those who did not eat nuts.
The benefit applied only to tree nuts and not peanuts or peanut butters, said Fadelu, whose study was released in advance of the upcoming American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting to be held early next month in Chicago.
That may be because peanuts are legumes, which may have a different metabolic composition than tree nuts, Fadelu said.
“This study shows that something as simple as eating tree nuts may make a difference in a patient’s long-term survival,” ASCO President Daniel Hayes said in a statement.
Hayes said basic healthy eating is often overlooked by doctors and their patients in cancer care.
The team focussed on nut consumption because prior studies have shown that eating nuts can reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes – factors that also influence the risk of recurrence and death from colon cancer. Fadelu said further studies should look at whether tree nuts are associated with better health outcomes at other stages of colon cancer. The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute, the National Institutes of Health and Pfizer.