5 Nutrition Tips for Colon Cancer Prevention

My article below was originally posted on the PA Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Blog.

Colorectal cancer may be the third most common cancer in the US, but it is also one that we may be able to prevent. A whopping 47% of colon cancer incidences are said to be preventable with a healthy diet, physical activity and weight management! Put your best fork forward this National Nutrition Month and every month to reduce your risk of colorectal and other cancers. Preventing Colorectal Cancer

The American Institute for Cancer Research has studies showing shows that obesity itself increases the chances of 11 types of cancer, with colon cancer included. Let’s delve into lifestyle prevention before focusing on diet!

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

  • Get screened: It is recommended to have your first colonoscopy at 50 years of age. If you have a family history, you should have your first colonoscopy at the age of 40, or 10 years prior to your family member’s age of diagnosis if that is earlier. Early detection can prevent progression and improve outcomes.
  • Start moving: The minimum recommendation for physical activity is to engage in at least 30 minutes most days. While exercise has many health benefits and aids in lowering the risk of many forms of cancer, another benefit is that it helps to reduce constipation, which has been associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Avoid tobacco: tobacco use is not just linked to lung cancer but to cellular damage all over the body.
  • Improve your diet: a healthy diet both directly and indirectly aids in cancer prevention by providing essential nutrients and managing weight.

5 Dietary Tips

  1. Increase your fiber (both soluble & insoluble) intake:
  • Soluble fibers can act as prebiotics, supporting your microbiota (good gut bacteria)
  • Insoluble fiber prevents constipation which, as mentioned above, may increase your risk of colorectal cancer
  1. Eat a rainbow of plant foods
  • Antioxidant phytochemicals are what provide plant foods with their color! The more colors you see on your plate, the greater variety of antioxidants you’ll take in so they can work together to protect your body.
    • Eat more green, orange, red, purple, and even white plant foods
  1. Drink more fluids
  • Lack of proper fluid intake is a major contributor to constipation as well. Fluid needs are individualized, but use your urine color to determine if you’re hydrated. It should be “straw-like” in color when you wake up!
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables as they’re great sources of fluids, too!
  1. Limit Alcohol consumption
  • If consumed, limit alcohol to 2 drinks for men and 1 for women per day. One drink is equivalent to 1.5 ounces of liquor, 12 ounces beer, or 4-5 ounces of wine.
    • Drink more tea and seltzer to replace weeknight habitual drinking
      • Tip: pour flavored seltzer or Kombucha into your favorite wine glass
        so it still feels like a treat!
  1. Decrease Intake of red meats
  • Research suggests consuming more than 18 ounces of red meat, pork and lamb per week may increase cancer risks
    • Eat more lentils to replace beef
    • Eat more turkey bacon or chicken sausage instead of pork
      • Just choose those more naturally cured as AICR recommends avoiding processed meats

It has also been reported that only 52% of people know there is a link between diet and cancer so, spread the word!

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