Nonlinear reduction in risk for colorectal cancer by fruit and vegetable intake based on meta-analysis of prospective studies

Gastroenterology. 2011 Jul;141(1):106-18. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.04.013. Epub 2011 Apr 16.


Background & aims: The association between fruit and vegetable intake and colorectal cancer risk has been investigated by many studies but is controversial because of inconsistent results and weak observed associations. We summarized the evidence from cohort studies in categorical, linear, and nonlinear, dose-response meta-analyses.

Methods: We searched PubMed for studies of fruit and vegetable intake and colorectal cancer risk that were published until the end of May 2010. We included 19 prospective studies that reported relative risk estimates and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) of colorectal cancer-associated with fruit and vegetable intake. Random effects models were used to estimate summary relative risks.

Results: The summary relative risk for the highest vs the lowest intake was 0.92 (95% CI: 0.86-0.99) for fruit and vegetables combined, 0.90 (95% CI: 0.83-0.98) for fruit, and 0.91 (95% CI: 0.86-0.96) for vegetables (P for heterogeneity=.24, .05, and .54, respectively). The inverse associations appeared to be restricted to colon cancer. In linear dose-response analysis, only intake of vegetables was significantly associated with colorectal cancer risk (summary relative risk=0.98; 95% CI: 0.97-0.99), per 100 g/d. However, significant inverse associations emerged in nonlinear models for fruits (Pnonlinearity<.001) and vegetables (Pnonlinearity=.001). The greatest risk reduction was observed when intake increased from very low levels of intake. There was generally little evidence of heterogeneity in the analyses and there was no evidence of small-study bias.

Conclusions: Based on meta-analysis of prospective studies, there is a weak but statistically significant nonlinear inverse association between fruit and vegetable intake and colorectal cancer risk.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nonlinear Dynamics*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Vegetables*
  • Young Adult