Dietary factors in human colorectal cancer

Annu Rev Nutr. 1999;19:545-86. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.19.1.545.


Colorectal cancer is a significant cause of mortality in Western societies. The progression of the disease from normal colonic epithelium to the acquisition of the malignant phenotype is accompanied by numerous genetic and epigenetic alterations. Compelling experimental and epidemiological evidence indicates that diet and nutrition are key factors in the modulation of colorectal cancer. A salient case in point is the recent observation that a dietary regimen based on a Western-style diet provokes in the rodent colon the appearance of preneoplastic lesions in the absence of any genotoxic insult. This review mainly describes dietary factors that inhibit the development and progression of colorectal cancer. Much is unknown about the precise mechanisms of action of chemically disparate nutrients and how they interfere with the development and progression of this disease. Current knowledge about this important issue is summarized. We believe that continuing scrutiny and precise assessment of the benefits (and potential risks) of nutrients in the treatment and prevention of colorectal cancer will prove significant to controlling this devastating disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Colonic Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Colonic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Colonic Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Diet*
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Energy Intake
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acid
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Rectal Neoplasms* / etiology
  • Rectal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Rectal Neoplasms* / prevention & control
  • Sphingomyelins


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Sphingomyelins
  • Linoleic Acid