What you eat and how you live CAN reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. There are some causes of colorectal cancer that you cannot control such as heredity, age and other unknown factors. Other lifestyle factors that you do have control of can lower your risk.
The American Institute of Cancer Research (AICR) estimates that 45% of colorectal cancer cases each year could be prevented by: staying lean, eating smart , and moving more.
How is staying lean related to colorectal cancer risk? The vast majority of studies demonstrate an increased risk with excess weight in both men and women, but stronger association in men. Body fat produces hormones and proteins that cause inflammation and increased blood levels of insulin. These substances create an environment that may encourage cancer development and growth. More of these substances are produced with more body fat, especially if the fat is around the waist. Abdominal fat, in particular, increases colorectal cancer risk.
So, what exactly does “eating right” mean? One way to lower your risk of colorectal cancer is to eat a plant based diet. Make sure that plant foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans take up at least 2/3 of your plate at meals. Let meat, cheese and other animal foods take up only 1/3 or less of your plate.
Diet patterns that are high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains have been associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk. Why is plant based eating best for colon cancer prevention? Plants help defend the body against cancer. Phytochemicals and other naturally occurring plant substances prevent cellular damage. Some phtyochemicals slow the cancer process, allowing the body more time to defend itself. Plants also contain fiber. In recent years large studies have provided evidence that fiber intake, especially from whole grains, is associated with reduced colorectal cancer risk.
The evidence that red meat is a cause of colorectal cancer is convincing. AICR advises limiting red meat and avoiding processed meat. You can eat up to 18 ounces a week of red meat (like beef, pork and lamb) without raising colon cancer risk. Avoid processed meat, such as ham, bacon, salami, hot dogs and sausages. Colorectal cancer risk starts to increase with any portion. When meat is preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or by the addition of preservatives, cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) can be formed. These substances can damage cells in the body, leading to the development of cancer.
There is convincing evidence that there is increased colorectal cancer risk with increased alcohol consumption, especially in men. If consumed at all, limit alcoholic drinks to 2 for men and 1 for women a day.
Lastly, you can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by being physically active. Physical activity of all types decreases risk. Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day, and as your fitness improves, aim for a target of 60 minutes daily.
Movement and eating are things that you do and can only do for yourselves. Remember: staying lean, eating smart and moving more are lifestyle choices you can make to protect yourself against colorectal cancer.
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