Reducing Colon Cancer Risk with High Dietary Lignan Intake

The colon health affects every other system in your body and its ability to function. A healthy colon is essential for good digestion, absorption of nutrients, and elimination of waste. It also plays an important role in maintaining good gut health and protecting the body against infections and diseases.

An improperly functioning colon can put you at a much higher risk of developing colon-related diseases like diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease. People with poor colon health are also more likely to develop colon cancer—the third most common type of cancer in the United States. To avoid developing any of these conditions, take more proactive measures to ensure and maintain the health of your colon. Adding flax lignan supplements to your regular diet is a great way to start.

Lignans and Colon Health

Flaxseed Hulls are high in fiber and lignans. The fiber is good for digestion, absorbing impurities, and cleansing the colon. It is also known to improve bowel movements and reduce the rate of colon cancer. If you are not already taking a lot of fiber, you will see a definite increase in your stool size and frequency after incorporating flax lignans into your diet. You want to achieve a good bowel movement at least once a day. Any longer than that, you are holding toxins in your body, which is unhealthy. By eating flaxseed hulls, you purge your body of unhealthy toxins more frequently.

Emerging evidence on the relationship of lignans and colon health suggests that flaxseed may offer protection against colon cancer. Flaxseed contains several compounds with anti-cancer properties, such as lignans, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have indicated that the regular consumption of flaxseed or flaxseed products may help reduce cancer risk by preventing the development of precancerous cells (polyps, microadenomas, aberrant crypts, and foci) in the colon.

Studies on the Relationship of Lignans and Colon Health

As a potent source of lignans, researchers suggested that flaxseed may interfere with the development of breast, prostate, colon, and other tumors in humans.1

Mammalian lignan precursors, such as secoisolariciresinol diglucoside (SDG), have been shown over the short term to decrease some early markers of colon cancer risk. A study determined that flaxseed’s colon cancer protective effect is due, in part, to SDG and the increase in beta-glucuronidase activity.2

Laboratory studies have also shown that the mammalian lignans enterolactone and enterodiol, derived from flaxseed precursors, have the ability to inhibit the growth of human colon tumor cells. The result prompted researchers to believe that flaxseed can potentially reduce the risk of colon cancer.3

Furthermore, flaxseed may aid in preventing cancer cells from spreading or metastasizing. Scientists in Nebraska adding flaxseed to the diets of mice injected with melanoma cells reduced the cross-sectional area, volume, and metastasis of melanoma tumors. And the more flaxseed the mice consumed, the greater the reductions became..4

Flaxseed supplementation at the 5% level to a high-fat basal diet significantly lowered early neoplastic indices in both the colon and mammary glands of rats. The purification of SDG from flaxseed showed that both flaxseed (5% by weight) and SDG (at levels equivalent to that in the 5% flaxseed diet) could significantly reduce mammary tumor size and/or number when fed at early and late stages of carcinogenesis. Significant reductions in colon cancer risk markers, such as the size and multiplicity of aberrant crypt foci in carcinogen-treated rats, have also been observed with flaxseed and SDG.6

The information on lignans and colon health provided in this article is for informational purposes only. This information should not be construed as medical advice. It is up to the individual reading this to get expert medical advice and not rely on this information for the diagnosis, treatment, prevention, or attempts to cure any disease. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. Our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. The studies mentioned above do not mention any brand names of products used in the studies. The article on this page is not intended to suggest that our products were used in the studies or that our products would have the same results.


1. Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Vol. 86 No.23. December 7, 1994 pg. 1748.

2. Jenab M, Thompson LU. The influence of flaxseed and lignans on colon carcinogenesis and beta-glucuronidase activity. Carcinogenesis. 1996 Jun;17(6):1343-8. 

3. Sung MK, Lautens M, Thompson LU. Mammalian lignans inhibit the growth of estrogen-independent human colon tumor cells. Anticancer Res. 1998 May;18(3A):1405-8.

4. Yan L, Yee JA, Li D, McGuire MH, Thompson LU. Dietary flaxseed supplementation and experimental metastasis of melanoma cells in mice. Cancer Lett. 1998 Feb 27;124(2):181-6.

5. Health Effects of Flaxseed Mucilage, Lignans Inform, Vol. 8, no. 8 (August 1997)