Beans Protect Against Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the 3rd most common cancer in the United States, and it is the 2nd most deadly cancer. Proper nutrition can dramatically cut colon cancer risk. Numerous studies have found beans to significantly decrease the risk of colon cancer. A six year study tracking over 32,000 individuals found that those who ate beans, peas, or lentils more than twice a week decreased their risk of colon cancer by 50%. If they cut their chance of colon cancer in half by eating beans just a few times a week, imagine the benefit of eating beans daily!

Beans' unique composition makes them a dietary wonder. Beans are rich in fiber and resistant starch and are not easily broken down by enzymes in the small intestine. They pass into the large intestine where bacteria ferment them into short chain fatty acids such as butyrate.6 Butyrate protects against colon cancer in many different ways:

Butyrate halts cancer cell growth and causes cancer cell death.

Butyrate increases the expression of detoxifying enzymes and limits DNA damage due to oxidative stress. Butyrate inhibits tumors from acquiring a blood supply. Butyrate has anti-inflammatory affects.

I recommend people eat some beans every day. Not only do they protect against colon cancer, they stabilize blood sugar and help you feel full. There are a variety of beans to choose from: chickpeas, black-eyed peas, black beans, lima beans, pinto beans, lentils, red kidney beans, cannellini beans and many more. They can be flavored and spiced in lots of interesting ways. Add beans to soups, salads, dips, burgers, or explore the Recipe Guide on our Member Center for various recipes.


1. CDC. "Colorectal Cancer Statistics." Centers for Disease Control. November 2010. (accessed February 2011).

2. Aune D, De Stefani E, Ronco A, et al. Legume intake and the risk of cancer: a multisite case-control study in Uruguay. Cancer Causes Control. 2009 Nov;20(9):1605-15.

3. Agurs-Collins T, Smoot D, Afful J, et al. Legume intake and reduced colorectal adenoma risk in African-Americans. J Natl Black Nurses Assoc. 2006 Dec;17(2):6-12.

4. Lanza E, Hartman TJ, Albert PS, et al. High dry bean intake and reduced risk of advanced colorectal adenoma recurrence among participants in the polyp prevention trial. J Nutr. 2006 Jul;136(7):1896-903.

5. Singh, P.N., and G.E. Fraser. 1998. Dietary risk factors for colon cancer in a low-risk population. Am J Epidem. 148: 761-74.

6. Faris MA, Takruri HR, Shomaf MS, Bustani YK. Chemopreventive effect of raw and cooked lentils (Lens culinaris L) and soybeans (Glycine max) against azoxymethane-induced aberrant crypt foci. Nutr Res. 2009 May;29(5):355-62. 

7. Williams EA, Coxhead JM, Mathers JC. Anti-cancer effects of butyrate: use of micro-array technology to investigate mechanisms. Proc Nutr Soc. 2003 Feb;62(1):107-15.

8. Hamer HM, Jonkers D, Venema K, et al. Review article: the role of butyrate on colonic function. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2008 Jan 15;27(2):104-19.  

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