Colon cancer is a form of cancer that affects parts of the large intestine. Estimates show more than 100,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year. After lung cancer, it’s the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for men and women in the United States.
But research shows that lifestyle habits have a major impact on someone’s risk for developing the disease — especially when it comes to dietary choices.
Colon Cancer and Diet: What’s the Relationship?
Studies indicate that an optimal diet can lower a person’s colon cancer risk by up to 70 percent.
This is because nutrition has a direct impact on critical bodily functions like immune system responsiveness and inflammation. There is evidence that an imbalance of bacteria in the gut and excess body weight also directly influence colon cancer risk factors.
What Foods Lower Colon Cancer Risk?
Research shows that an ideal colon-supporting diet includes:
- Leafy green vegetables like kale, broccoli, and spinach that contain high amounts of antioxidants — nutrients that slow or reverse cell damage associated with cancer
- Nutrient-rich fruits like oranges, berries, and bananas
- Whole grains and legumes like oats, lentils, and beans that have high amounts of gut-protecting fiber
- Sources of omega-3 fatty acids like fish, nuts, and plant oils that may lower inflammation and block cancer cell development
- Foods like dairy products that are high in vitamin D and calcium, nutrients that studies show cause cancer cell death
Do Some Foods Increase Colon Cancer Risk?
The World Health Organization (WHO) classifies processed meats like bacon and salami as “carcinogenic to humans.” A recent report shows that eating just a 50-gram portion of processed meat every day increases a person’s colon cancer risk by 18 percent.
Studies indicate that high intake of other foods and drinks can raise colon cancer risk factors as well. This includes:
- High consumption of red meats like beef, lamb, and pork, which studies conclude increase colon cancer rates by 28 percent
- Foods high in sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats that contribute to weight gain, a major risk factor for colon cancer
- Alcoholic beverages that may contribute to the formation of colorectal polyps
How to Maintain Long-Term Colon Health
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, and healthy fats is scientifically shown to lower risk factors for colon cancer. Still, other lifestyle choices can contribute to this effect.
One analysis found that individuals with a regular exercise routine were 19 percent less likely to develop colon cancer than those with low physical activity levels.
Smokers are also more likely to develop colon cancer. Cigarettes can stimulate the formation of intestinal polyps — the precursor to most colon cancers. But there’s good news, too. Once a smoker quits, their risk of getting colon cancer begins to decrease over time.
Colon Cancer Screenings
There are often no physical symptoms in the early stages of colon cancer — but this is the time when treatments are most successful. That’s why a consistent screening routine is so important as a preventative measure for colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends adults begin regular colon cancer screenings by age 45. Contact our team of specialists at Nevada Surgery and Cancer Center to schedule your next screening and gain confidence in your long-term colon health.