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Health Information

Reducing Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

General Guidelines

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating a high-fiber diet has been associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer. Fiber is found in all plant foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. You may also benefit from eating less red meat.

Specific foods may help to lower the risk of colorectal cancer. These foods include onions, garlic, and cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, and radishes.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Even moderate exercise for 30 minutes per day is beneficial.

Avoid Obesity

Obesity has been found to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Doctors recommend losing excess weight to reduce colorectal cancer risk.

Stop Smoking

To reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, stop smoking . Smokers are more likely to develop and die of colorectal cancer than nonsmokers.

Use Alcohol in Moderation

Avoid excessive alcohol use. Moderation is one drink for women and two drinks for men per day.

Know Your Family History

Colon cancer can run in families. If more than one close relative has developed colon cancer before age 60, you may be at increased risk. You may also be at risk if anyone in your family has been diagnosed with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).

If you have a strong family history of the disease, your doctor may recommend that you have a colonoscopy. After an initial colonoscopy, your doctor will recommend repeat colonoscopies depending on the findings.

Talk to Your Doctor About the Benefits of Aspirin

Some studies have found a link between aspirin use and reduced rates of colorectal cancer. Since taking aspirin can have side effects, including gastrointestinal bleeding, talk to your doctor before deciding to start aspirin therapy.

Revision Information

  • Colon and rectal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/colon-and-rectal. Accessed May 15, 2013.

  • Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/cid/documents/webcontent/003096-pdf.pdf. Updated January 17, 2013. Accessed May 15, 2013.

  • Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated May 3, 2013. Accessed May 15, 2013.

  • Kushi LH, Doyle C, et al. American Cancer Society Guidelines on nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention: reducing the risk of cancer with healthy food choices and physical activity. CA Cancer J Clin. 2012;62(1):30-67.

  • Slattery ML, Curtin KP, et al. Plant foods, fiber, and rectal cancer. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;79(2):274-281.

  • 12/9/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Aune D, Chan DS, et al. Dietary fibre, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2011;343:d6617.

  • 4/5/2012 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Algra AM, Rothwell PM. Effects of regular aspirin on long-term cancer incidence and metastasis: a systematic comparison of evidence from observational studies versus randomised trials. Lancet Oncol. 2012 Mar 20.

  • 5/6/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Wu QJ, Yang Y, et al. Cruciferous vegetables intake and the risk of colorectal cancer: a meta-analysis of observational studies. Ann Oncol. 2013 Apr;24(4):1079-1087.