What You Can Do To Reduce Your Risk Of Colon Cancer

With the recent, unexpected news that celebrity Kirstie Alley has passed away from colon cancer, we thought it a good time to take another look at some of the lifestyle and dietary changes we can make to help reduce our risk of colon cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer (that affects both men and women) in the United States, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. Though family history can increase one’s risk of colon cancer, the majority of people who are diagnosed have no family history of the disease. Here are steps you can take to reduce your risk of colon cancer:

  1. Reduce your intake of sugar, and, if you are diabetic, work to control your blood glucose levels. Eating large amounts of high glycemic-index or high glycemic load carbohydrates raises colon cancer risk, whereas increasing amounts of low-glycemic index carbohydrates decreases risk. Among people with type 2 diabetes, use of the diabetes drug Metformin was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer.
  2. Eat a diet rich in fiber, complex carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables and plant sources of protein. Be sure to include plenty of cruciferous vegetables, as they have been shown to block the growth of colon cancer tumors. Cruciferous vegetables include: arugula, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, bok choy, turnip greens and mustard greens.
  3. Reduce, or better still, eliminate red meat from your diet. Information coming out of countries with the highest levels of beef consumption, such as New Zealand and Scotland, also have among the highest colon cancer rates in the world. In addition, a large Harvard study of 80,000 nurses, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that eating any kind of red meat on a daily basis resulted in a threefold increased risk of colon cancer.
  4. Reduce saturated fat intake. Studies suggest that saturated fat, found in fatty meat and high fat dairy products, including ice cream, milk and cheese, may trigger increased production of insulin and growth factors that may promote colon tumor growth. In contrast, diets high in omega-3 fats found in cold water fish such as salmon, albacore tuna and rainbow trout can decrease inflammation, which can contribute to the onset of colon cancer.
  5. Maintain a healthy weight and body composition. Excess weight is strongly linked to colon cancer, especially for men, premenopausal women, and those with excess fat predominantly in the abdomen.
  6. Incorporate physical activity into your life. Regular moderate activity such as brisk walking for 30 to 60 minutes a day doesn’t just help with weight control, it can result in changes in various hormones and growth factors that help reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  7. Don’t smoke, or quit smoking, and only drink alcohol in moderation.
  8. Increase your antioxidants through a colorful selection of vegetables and fruits and reduce inflammation with cherries, fish and fish oil, and turmeric or its powerful anti-inflammatory component, curcumin.
  9. Research has consistently demonstrated that men and women with high blood levels of vitamin D, as well as those who consume more of the vitamin from dietary sources, have a significantly reduced risk of colorectal cancer. In addition, there is solid data suggesting that calcium supplementation can lower colon cancer risk.
  10. Getting the right bacteria in your intestines by eating fermented foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi or sourdough bread, and possibly taking probiotic supplements may reduce risk factors for colon cancer.
  11. Consider the overall profile of your diet. A healthy plant-based diet was recently shown to lower risks of colon and rectal cancer, especially in men. Whole grains, vegetables, fruits and legumes were particularly important, whereas added sugars, refined grains, fruit juices and potatoes were less-healthy plant foods.

Don’t forget screening! Receive regular colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 45, assuming you have no known risk factors for the disease. If you are at higher risk – due to a family history of colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or if you have a history of polyps in the colon – talk to your doctor about getting screened before the age of 45. Appropriate screening is extremely important, as the survival rate for people with colorectal cancers found early is more than 90 percent. In addition, if you see blood in your stool; experience rectal bleeding; or notice a change in your bowel habits, such as persistent diarrhea or constipation, consult with a doctor.


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