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How to Lower Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer

March 14, 2013

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US for both men and women (behind breast cancer/prostate cancer for men and women respectively, and lung cancer), with about 143,500 new cases each year. Research shows that roughly half of the new cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed each year (half!) could be prevented by choosing better lifestyle habits.

There are some really simple changes you can make in order to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, here's some of the basics:

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Choose non-starchy ones like tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers and carrots; strong evidence links garlic to lower colorectal cancer risk.


Go for whole fruits more often, whether fresh or frozen. Because it's calorie-dense, limit even 100% fruit juice to 1 cup per day.

Whole Grains

Whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal are just a few great choices.


Add pinto, kidney, black, garbanzos and more to soups, salads and stews.

Red meat like beef, pork and lamb

Diets high in these foods raise risk for colorectal cancer, and tend to be calorie-dense as well.

Processed meat

Processed meat, like hot dogs, cold cuts, bacon and sausage increase risk for colorectal cancer.

Fast food

Keep in mind that there are lots of calories and sodium packed into each bite.

A good rule of thumb: always fill at least 2/3 of your plate with plant foods, and let animal foods (meat and dairy) take up the rest.

Why does excess body fat raise colorectal cancer risk?

  • Being overweight and obese increases blood levels of insulin and related hormones that can encourage the growth of cancer.
  • Excess fat also creates a pro-inflammatory environment in the body that can contribute to the growth of cancer.

Why does red meat raise colorectal cancer risk?

  • Red meat contains heme iron, which has been linked to the kind of cellular damage that increases risk.
  • The red meat stimulates the production of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds in the body.
  • Meat cooked at high temperatures produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both are potent carcinogens.

Why does process meat raise my risk of colorectal cancer?

  • Nitrates are added to many processed meats; they contribute to the production of N-nitroso compounds that can damange the lining of the gut.
  • Many processed meats are high in salt and nitrites, both of which are associated with increased risk.

How does alcohol consumption raise the risk of colorectal cancer?

  • The body converts alcohol into acetylaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Alcohol may act as a solvent, making it easier for carcinogens to penetrate the cells lining the colon.
  • Alcohol can adversely affect how efficiently the body repairs DNA damage and defends against free radicals.
  • Statistically, heavy drinkers tend to have poor diets, which increases their cancer risk.

How does being active reduce my risk for colorectal cancer?

Directly: Being active helps regulate hormone levels and reduces inflammation.Indirectly: Active people are less likely to be overweight or obese; as noted above, excess body fat raises risk for colorectal cancer -- and six other kinds of cancer as well.

Why does eating foods that contain fiber reduce my risk?

The evidence linking foods containing fiber with lower colorectal cancer risk has grown stronger over the years. Evidence that dietary fiber protects against colorectal cancer is now convincing. Besides their fiber, plant foods contain a wide variety of substances that have been linked to lower risk for cancer, including carotenoids, selenium, lycopene and many more.

Garlic? I love garlic! But what about it lowers my risk for colorectal cancer?

Several studies have been conducted in which subjects who ate the most garlic had lower colorectal cancer risk than subjects who ate the least. Also, in many laboratory studies, garlic and its components (such as allyl sulphur compounds) have shown the ability to slow and stop the formation of colon tumors.

So, it seems pretty simple to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer; all you have to do is start making healthier choices now! Think about joining the Orlando Health Wellness Center; this fitness center is open to the public and staffed with trainers and dietitians that can help you learn about healthy choices.