Index-based dietary patterns and colorectal cancer risk: A systematic review

Susan E. Steck, Mark Guinter, Jiali Zheng, Cynthia A. Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

64 Scopus citations


Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. Various a priori dietary patterns that take into account diet complexity have been associated with CRC risk. This systematic review augments the evidence for an association between CRC risk and the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS) and the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), and provides new evidence for a novel Dietary Inflammatory Index (DII). Human studies published in English after 31 December 2008 were reviewed. Five case-control studies and 7 prospective cohort studies conducted in the United States and Europe were identified. Five of the studies examined the MDS, 4 examined the HEI, and 4 examined the DII. Comparing highest to lowest score groups, higher MDSs were associated with an 8-54% lower CRC risk, and higher HEI scores were associated with a 20-56% lower CRC risk. More proinflammatory diet scores were associated with a 12-65% higher CRC risk compared with more anti-inflammatory diets in studies that used the DII. The results reported by sex suggested similar associations for men and women. This review builds upon the evidence supporting the association between higher overall diet quality and lower risk of CRC. Increasing scores of MDS and HEI and anti-inflammatory DII scores are characterized by high intake of plant-based foods and low intake of animal products. Future studies in more diverse populations and with consistent scoring calculations are recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-773
Number of pages11
JournalAdvances in Nutrition
Issue number6
StatePublished - 2015


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Dietary inflammatory index
  • Dietary patterns
  • Epidemiology
  • Healthy eating index
  • Mediterranean diet
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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