7 ways to prevent colorectal cancer


March marks nutrition and colorectal cancer awareness months, emphasizing the importance of understanding preventive measures for this disease. The colon and rectum are important parts of your digestive system, responsible for processing waste. 

<Learn more about colorectal cancer and screening recommendations.>

Nutrition plays a significant role in the prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer. Research has found that if you eat a healthy, balanced diet, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight and limit or avoid alcohol consumption, you can reduce your risk of developing colorectal disease by one-third. 

Here are seven nutritious ways to help you prevent colorectal cancer

  1. Include high-fiber foods daily — fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains like whole wheat bread and brown rice, beans and legumes like lentils, peas, pinto beans, black beans, seeds and nuts. These foods not only offer fiber but also are great sources of protein and vitamins B and E. 
  2. Consume lean protein in moderation, reducing red meat (beef, lamb, pork) and processed meats (any meat that has been preserved through smoking, curing or salting — deli meats, bacon, sausage, ham and hot dogs). These meats contain compounds that have been associated with a higher risk of developing this type of cancer. Opt for fish, skinless poultry and plant-based foods. Go “meatless” once a week with plant-based proteins such as a veggie burger with brown rice and vegetables, or a salad. 
  3. Drink more water! Stay hydrated by drinking more water daily and limiting caffeine. 
  4. Limit alcohol. Many types of cancer have shown an increased risk with any amount of alcohol consumption. If you choose to drink, do so occasionally, limiting to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women, where one alcoholic drink equals 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. 
  5. Achieve and maintain a healthy body weight. A higher risk of colorectal and other cancers has been associated with excess body fat. Follow a healthy balanced diet, limit fat and excess calories, eat smaller portions and exercise daily. 
  6. Get moving! Being physically active every day has been shown to reduce the risk of many cancers, including colorectal cancer. Adults should aim for 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, or a combination thereof. 
  7. Include more low-fat dairy in your diet. Current research suggests that low-fat milk, yogurt, cottage cheese and other dairy products, which are high in calcium, may offer protective benefits. 

Additionally, research has shown current and former smokers have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. However, your risk can decrease over time after you quit smoking. 

Find more nutrition tips from Northside Hospital Nutrition Services.


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Featured Provider

Becky Karousatos, MS, RDN, LDN picture

Becky Karousatos, MS, RDN, LDN

Specialties: Nutrition

Becky Karousatos is an outpatient clinical dietitian at Northside Hospital Cherokee. 

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