Colorectal Cancer: 11 Steps To Reduce Your Risk

Colorectal Cancer: 11 Steps To Reduce Your Risk

Cancer of the colon or rectum – colorectal cancer – is the fourth most common cancer in the US and the second leading cause of death from cancer. According to the Cancer National Institute, approximately 4.7% of men and women will be diagnosed with this type of cancer at some point in their lives. Awareness plays a big role in preventing colorectal cancer and lifestyle changes can lower your risk significantly.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts either in the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) or the rectum (the last several inches of the colon, closest to the anus). Since both cancers have a lot in common, a term colorectal cancer is often used. The most common type of colorectal cancer is adenocarcinoma – a type of cancer that originates in the cells which produce mucus and other fluids.

Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally and it occurs in over 90% of all cases in people aged 50 and older.

As mentioned earlier, this is a highly preventable cancer and regular screening of population older than 50 is a good way to catch the disease in the precancerous stage. The initial polyps (abnormal growths) can be safely removed if detected in time.

What Can You Do To Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

1. Be physically active

Physical activity plays an important role in prevention of many cancers, and colorectal cancer is definitely one of them. If you make sure you get enough movement, your risk can be reduced by 40-50%, as described by a study published in The Journal of Nutrition. Of all cancers, colon and rectal cancers might have the strongest association with regular exercising.

How much exercising do adults need?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give the following recommendation: “engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on five or more days of the week,” or “engage in vigorous-intensity physical activity for at least 20 minutes on three or more days of the week”.

2. Maintain a healthy weight

If you are overweight, you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by simply losing some extra pounds. According to research, your risk goes down by 15% with every five points of body mass index (BMI) you lose. For example, reducing your BMI from 40 to 35, will lessen your risk by 15%, and going from 40 to 30 will make you 30% safer. If you want to lose weight, you can find useful information in my other posts: 9 secrets of losing weight without diet and 12 simple tweaks for weight loss. You can also lose weight by boosting your metabolism and you can eat these 10 foods to increase your metabolism.

3. Stop smoking

Smoking is probably one of the most known risk factors for different types of cancers. It’s associated not only with lung cancer, but also with cancers of the colon, stomach and esophagus. If you want to stop smoking, follow these 5 natural ways to quit smoking.

4. Limit your alcohol intake

Colorectal cancer has been linked to excessive drinking but you should also be aware that excessive drinking is also one of the 5 common habits that damage your liver. If you can’t see yourself becoming a teetotaler, at least limit your alcohol intake. Ideally, you should stop at one drink a day. A single drink amounts to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1½ ounces of hard liquor (spirits).

5. Reduce red meat consumption

Since colon is the final part of the digestive tract, what you eat is very important for its health. High intake of red meat has been linked to colon cancer development and it is also one of the top 5 cancer causing foods. Red meat becomes particularly problematic when it’s exposed to very high temperatures, for example when grilled or broiled, or when charred. To reduce the amount of carcinogens called HCAs, chose braising, boiling or sautéing (you can find more information in my post about the best cooking methods for cancer prevention).

6. Eat lots of fruits and non-starchy vegetables

Diet rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals is very soothing for the digestive tract and helps prevent cancers that attack this body system, including colorectal cancer. Some of the most potent sources of anti-cancerous substances include dark leafy greens, beets, squashes, bell peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and green beans. You can find more information in my post about the top 14 foods that protect against cancer development.

7. Increase your fiber intake

By eating lots of fruit and veg, you will tackle this recommendation as well. Fiber, the non-digestible plant material, is very important for colon health. It acts as a gut cleaner and brushes away harmful substances and carcinogens. Secondly, it presents food for colon’s good bacteria, which act in an anti-cancer way. Befriend foods like beans, seeds, nuts, oatmeal and bran cereal to enjoy the full benefits.

8. Avoid foods preserved with sodium nitrite

Sodium nitrate is commonly used to preserve processed lunchmeats such as bacon, salami and hot dogs. In the stomach, this compound reacts with the body’s acids and transform into nitrosamine, which is counted among carcinogens and has been linked to colon cancer. If you can’t do without processed meats, opt for nitrite-free products. Sodium nitrate is also one of top 10 worst ingredients in food.

9. Consume foods rich in calcium

Dietary calcium has been shown to decrease colorectal cancer. Due to years’ long propaganda, most people first think of milk when you mention calcium. However, cow’s milk might not be the best source of calcium and many prefer a diet low in dairy. Good, non-dairy, sources include cabbage, sweet potato, fennel, parsley, orange, arugula, almonds, broccoli and hummus. You can find more sources of calcium in this post.

10. Get enough vitamin D

Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with 12 common diseases, and colon cancer is just one of them. If you don’t get enough sun exposure, consider taking a vitamin D supplement, especially during non-summer months.

11. Get tested

Screening is a very important part of fighting against colorectal cancer. Testing is recommended for everyone over the age of 50. If you have colon cancer in your family or you are at a higher risk, you might want to consider doing the testing earlier.

There are different screening options that are performed at regular intervals and include:

  • Fecal tests (every year)
  • Colonoscopy (every 10 years)
  • Sigmoidoscopy (every 3-5 years).

You can discuss with your doctor what is the best screening and prevention plan for you.

It also extremely important to get to know the symptoms and warning signs of colorectal cancer as in its earliest stages it is one of the most curabletypes of cancer. You can learn about the symptom in my article about 10 Warning Signs of Bowel (Colorectal) Cancer You Shouldn’t Ignore.

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Article Sources:

Healthy and Natural World