Lead author Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and colleagues found in a previous study those with a typical "Western" diet -- high intake of meat, fat, refined grains and sugary desserts -- were three times more likely to have a cancer recurrence than those whose diets were least Western.
The study was conducted to explore which component of the Western diet was most responsible for the increased risk of colon cancer recurrence.
The study involved 1,011 stage III colon cancer patients who had undergone surgery and participated in a National Cancer Institute-sponsored Cancer and Leukemia Group B clinical trial of follow-up chemotherapy for their disease.
Participants reported their dietary intake during and six months after the trial.
Researchers tracked the patients' total carbohydrates, as well as their glycemic index -- a measure of how quickly blood sugar levels rise after eating a particular food -- and glycemic load, which takes into account the amount of a carbohydrate actually consumed, and looked for a statistical connection between these measures and the recurrence of colon cancer.
The study, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found the study participants with the highest dietary levels of glycemic load and carbohydrate intake had an 80 percent increased risk of colon cancer recurrence or death compared with those who had the lowest levels. Among patients who were overweight or obese the increase was even greater, the study said.