Background: Although diet has long been suspected as an etiological factor for colorectal cancer, studies of single foods and nutrients have provided inconsistent results.
Objective: We used factor analysis methods to study associations between dietary patterns and colorectal cancer in middle-aged Americans.
Design: Diet was assessed among 293,615 men and 198,767 women in the National Institutes of Health-AARP Diet and Health Study. Principal components factor analysis identified 3 primary dietary patterns: a fruit and vegetables, a diet foods, and a red meat and potatoes pattern. State cancer registries identified 2151 incident cases of colorectal cancer in men and 959 in women between 1995 and 2000.
Results: Men with high scores on the fruit and vegetable pattern were at decreased risk [relative risk (RR) for quintile (Q) 5 versus Q1: 0.81; 95% CI: 0.70, 0.93; P for trend = 0.004]. Both men and women had a similar risk reduction with high scores on the diet food factor: men (RR: 0.82; 95% CI: 0.72, 0.94; P for trend = 0.001) and women (RR: 0.87; 95% CI: 0.71, 1.07; P for trend = 0.06). High scores on the red meat factor were associated with increased risk: men (RR: 1.17; 95% CI: 1.02, 1.35; P for trend = 0.14) and women (RR: 1.48; 95% CI: 1.20, 1.83; P for trend = 0.0002).
Conclusions: These results suggest that dietary patterns characterized by a low frequency of meat and potato consumption and frequent consumption of fruit and vegetables and fat-reduced foods are consistent with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.