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Diets To Reduce Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Natan Rosenfeld Natan Rosenfeld April 24, 2021
Medically reviewed by Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen

Colorectal cancer (also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer) is a type of cancer that affects the large intestine, particularly the colon or rectum. It is usually diagnosed in older adults, although people of any age can develop it. Symptoms of colorectal cancer may include diarrhea or constipation, blood in the stool, abdominal pain, general fatigue or tiredness, and sudden, unexplained weight loss. 

 

Colorectal cancer is relatively common in the United States. It’s believed that 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women will develop this type of cancer during their lifetimes. It’s usually treatable, however, with over 90% of patients surviving the disease if it’s detected in the early stages. If the cancer has spread, however, the survival rate drops to 71%. Although colorectal cancer treatment is successful in most cases, it’s always best to prevent getting the disease in the first place. Starting at age 45, the American Cancer Society recommends that all adults get screened for colorectal cancer. Screening is a preventive method that can considerably reduce one’s risk for developing colorectal cancer, as a cancer screen will detect any potential abnormalities (tumors) in a person’s body that can be eliminated in their early stages.

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Cancer - Screening

Cancer - Screening

But besides screening, living a healthy lifestyle is the most important preventive method when it comes to all types of cancers. Besides getting enough exercise and avoiding smoking, your diet can greatly influence your chances of developing colorectal cancer. What are some foods to avoid, and what foods should you include in your diet?

 

Red meats have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. That includes pork, beef, and lamb, as well as processed red meats such as hot dogs, sausages, and lunch meats. Scientists aren’t sure what exactly in red meat can cause colorectal cancer, but some say heterocyclic amines (chemicals released when meat is cooked) found in red meat are part of the problem. Others point to preservatives, such as nitrates, as a potential cancer-causing agent. Whatever the reason, it’s best to limit your red meat intake.

 

So what should you be eating to prevent colorectal cancer? Foods high in fiber have been shown to significantly lower risks of colorectal cancer, according to some studies. Foods such as beans and legumes, oatmeal, vegetables, fruit, and whole-wheat pastas and breads can reduce your risk for colorectal cancer. 

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Colon Cancer - Causes

Colon Cancer - Causes

In addition, antioxidants, compounds produced in the body and found in many different foods, can lower your risk of colorectal cancer. Some foods rich in antioxidants include dark chocolate, pecans, strawberries, kale, and spinach. Try to get some antioxidant-rich foods in your diet. 

 

Eating a healthy diet will allow you to do your part in prevention, however regular doctors visits and screening for colon cancer at the appropriate age is the best way to ensure you are preventing colorectal cancer.

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