Six Steps for Lowering Colon Cancer Risk

Topics: Wellness and Health

You might already know that the CDC recommends that everyone get screened for colorectal cancer beginning at 50, and that certain people should begin screening earlier than that (review the CDC’s Screening Guidelines to see if you are a candidate for early screening). But did you know there are proactive steps you can take to reduce your risk? The American Institute for Cancer Research recently shared an important post on the topic, which I’ve adapted here for my readers.

1. Watch Your Weight–Especially Belly Fat

Being overweight or obese has been linked to several cancers, including colorectal cancer. And research conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) has found that too much belly fat, regardless of weight, increases risk of colon cancer. (For REFUEL, I spent a great deal of time researching belly fat–the hard, “Buddha” belly is especially worrisome as this indicates the presence of visceral fat, an active type of fat that can disrupt hormones and further exacerbate weight gain.) If you are at an unhealthy weight, you can begin to make changes to your die that will promote weight loss. Eat more vegetables, which are rich in vitamins and nutrients, filling, and low in calories, and reduce your intake of processed carbohydrates, especially desserts and sweets. The latter are more likely to be metabolized into belly fat. Make these choices consistently and you will begin to feel your waistband loosen.

2. Minimize Red Meat Consumption (And Skip Processed Altogether)

According to AICR’s research, regularly eating high amounts of red meat and even small amounts of processed meat increases colon cancer risk; consuming processed meat increases the risk twice as much as consuming red meat. Their recommendation is to enjoy no more than 18 ounces of red meat per week. This means approximately five-six servings of lamb, pork, or beef every seven days (going meatless on Mondays should help make this easier to accomplish).

3. Go Heavy on the Garlic

While the stinking rose, as garlic is known, might not be the best for your breath,when eaten regularly it can help reduce your risk for colorectal cancer. (I’ve written a love letter to garlic before–who doesn’t love an edible bulb that has been used as culinary medicine for centuries?) Use minced, pressed, or chopped garlic to boost the flavor of stir-fries and stews, or try it in my Garlicky Orzo or Roasted Chicken with Lemon and Garlic Juices.

4. Go Light on the Alcohol

While there is more proof that alcohol increases colorectal cancer risk in men than women, it’s recommended that both genders limit alcohol intake. Men should have no more than two standard drinks per day, women one. However, if your goal is to lose weight (see Step 1), you might want to consider drinking even less than that–alcohol is after all mostly empty calories.

5. Eat Good Fiber Every Day

Research has shown that for every 10 grams of fiber you eat each day, your risk of colon cancer is reduced by 10 percent. Some of my favorite fibrous foods that can also promote weight loss are: flax meal (add to smoothies or oats), steel cut oats, sprouted grain breads, berries, and apples. Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage, are also high in fiber.

6. Be Active

Moderate exercise has shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer. If you can exercise outside, even better as this will also help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. (Have you taken my Nature Quiz yet? Find out if you need more fresh-air time here.) Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise each day, but know that any increase in your daily activity is better than none.