• Reducing Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

    General Guidelines

    Eat a Healthy Diet

    Eating a high-fiber diet has been associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer. Fiber is found in all plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. But, getting your fiber from cereals and whole grains may be especially helpful in guarding against colorectal cancer.
    You may also benefit from eating plenty of fruits and veggies and eating less red meat. Researchers even found that diets rich in onions and garlic were associated with a reduced rate of many types of cancer.

    Exercise Regularly

    Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Even moderate exercise (30 minutes per day) is beneficial.

    Avoid Obesity

    Obesity has been found to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, particularly when the weight is distributed in the waist, rather than on hips and thighs. Doctors recommend losing excess weight to reduce colorectal cancer risk.

    Stop Smoking

    To reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, stop smoking . Smokers are 30%-40% more likely to die of colorectal cancer than nonsmokers.

    Use Alcohol in Moderation

    Regular use of alcohol among smokers and people with high-fat diets appears to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. However, there does not seem to be an increased risk among people who drink alcohol, but eat diets high in fiber.

    Know Your Family History

    Colon cancer can run in families. If more than one close relative has developed colon cancer before age 60, you may be at increased risk. You may also be at risk if anyone in your family has been diagnosed with familial adenomaous polypolsis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
    If you have a strong family history of the disease, your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy. After an initial colonoscopy, your doctor will recommend repeat colonoscopies depending on the findings.

    Get Proper Care for Other Conditions

    Some forms of colon cancer have a strong hereditary basis. If you have a strong family history of colon cancer or familial polyposis of the colon, you are at increased risk of colon cancer and may wish to explore how best to manage that risk with your doctor. Likewise, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease , also increases your risk. Good management of IBD is critical to avoiding the development of colon cancer.

    Talk to Your Doctor About the Benefits of Aspirin

    Some studies have found a link between aspirin use and reduced rates of colorectal cancer. Since taking aspirin can have side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding, talk to your doctor before deciding to start aspirin therapy.


    Colon carcinoma. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated December 6, 2011. Accessed December 9, 2011.

    Kushi LH, Byers T, Doyle C, et al. American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA Cancer J Clin. 2006;56(5):254-81; quiz 313-4.

    National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/ .

    Slattery ML, Curtin KP, Edwards SL, Schaffer DM. Plant foods, fiber, and rectal cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(2):274-281.

    United States Preventative Task Force. Screening for colorectal cancer: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med . 2008;149:627-637. Epub 2008 Oct 6.

    12/9/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Aune D, Chan DS, Lau R, et al. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2011;343:d6617.

    4/5/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Algra AM, Rothwell PM.Effects of regular aspirin on long-term cancer incidence and metastasis: a systematic comparison of evidence from observational studies versus randomised trials. Lancet Oncol. 2012 Mar 20.

    Revision Information

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.