Health Advice



Fiber and Melanoma

Charlyn Fargo on

Every now and then I come across a research article that makes me say, "Wow." Here's one of those on the benefits of fiber for cancer patients -- and all of us.

Researchers found that every 5-gram increase in daily fiber was correlated with a 30% lower risk for cancer progression or death among patients with advanced melanoma. In addition, 82% of patients who reported both sufficient fiber intake and no probiotic use responded to immunotherapy compared with only 59% of patients who reported either insufficient fiber intake or probiotic use.

The study was conducted at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and published in the journal Science.

Even for those of us who are lucky enough not to have melanoma, fiber helps. The dietary pattern associated with the response to immunotherapy is the same diet recommended by the American Cancer Society and the American Institute for Cancer Research, according to lead researcher, Jennifer McQuade, M.D., assistant professor of melanoma medical oncology at MD Anderson. That recommended diet centers on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. And it's the same diet recommended for secondary cancer prevention, prevention of cardiovascular disease, and health in general.

Here's how it works: Fiber plays a key role in the health of our gut microbiome, which plays a key role in immunotherapy.

Researchers conducted a randomized clinical trial to assess how varying fiber intake affected the gut microbiome and immune response among 128 patients with advanced melanoma receiving treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors. They looked at fecal microbiota profiles, dietary habits and commercially available probiotic supplements.


Patients who had higher consumption of dietary fiber fared the best. And those who had both sufficient fiber intake and didn't use probiotics fared even better.

The bottom line? Boost your intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grains for the healthiest diet. All that fiber really can make a difference.

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