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Men, you may want to consider ditching meat in the new year. New research suggests there is an association between plant-based diets and lower risk of colorectal cancer in men. Surprisingly, the association was not seen in women.

The study followed 79,952 men and 93,475 women. Participants were asked how much and how often they consumed particular foods and drinks from a list of 180 options. The options were broken up into food groups including animal foods (meat, dairy, seafood, eggs), less healthy plant foods (refined grains, fruit juice, potatoes) and healthy plant foods (vegetables and legumes).

headshot of Dr. Sylvia Crowder

Dr. Sylvia Crowder, Health Outcomes & Behavior Department

Researchers analyzed the results and determined men who ate the highest level of healthy plant-based foods could cut their colorectal cancer risk by up to 22% compared to those who ate the least. However, they did not see the same in women.

Dr. Sylvia Crowder, a researcher in Moffitt Cancer Center’s Health Outcomes and Behavior Department, says this could be attributed to different dietary habits between men and women.

“Men have a higher risk of colorectal cancer than women, in general, thus plant-based diets may provide more benefits in reducing risk in men than women. Future research on potential interactions between genetic, racial and ethnic differences are necessary to further explore the diet and cancer relationship,” she said.

Crowder says a balanced diet is key. Avoiding processed and refined foods and adding more fiber and antioxidant rich foods can improve overall health and reduce cancer risk.