March 2015

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Screening and good nutrition are two important steps that people can take to reduce their risk of this type of cancer. The following information from the American Cancer Society (ACS) explains the risks and preventive steps anyone can take to help prevent the disease.

The risk of colorectal cancer is higher for those with relatives who have had colorectal cancer or polyps. Risk may also be increased by long-term tobacco use and excessive alcohol use. Several studies have found a higher risk of colorectal cancer with increased alcohol intake, especially among men.

Most studies have found that being overweight or obese increases the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women, but the link seems to be stronger in men. Having more belly fat (that is, a larger waistline) has also been linked to colorectal cancer.

Overall, diets that are high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains (and low in red and processed meats) have been linked with lower colorectal cancer risk, although it's not exactly clear which factors are important. Many studies have found a link between red meat or processed meat intake and colorectal cancer risk.

Studies show a lower risk of colorectal cancer and polyps with increasing levels of activity. Moderate activity on a regular basis lowers the risk, but vigorous activity may have an even greater benefit.

In recent years, some large studies have suggested that fiber intake, especially from whole grains, may lower colorectal cancer risk. Research in this area is still under way.

Several studies have found that calcium, vitamin D, or a combination of the two may help protect against colorectal cancer. But because of the possible increased risk of prostate cancer in men with high calcium intake,the ACS does not recommend increasing calcium intake specifically to try to lower cancer risk.

At this time, the best advice about diet and activity to possibly reduce the risk of colorectal cancer is to:

  • Increase the intensity and amount of physical activity.
  • Limit intake of red and processed meats.
  • Get the recommended levels of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits.
  • Avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection.
  • Avoid excess alcohol.

It is also very important to follow the ACS guidelines for regular colorectal screening because finding and removing polyps in the colon can help prevent colorectal cancer.

From “ACS Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention”

The information contained within is not meant to substitute for the advice of your physician.