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Preventing Colorectal Cancer

by Judy Giusti, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

While researchers continue to seek out answers to this question, there are still plenty of good reasons to eat whole grains and at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Other lifestyle influences
Stopping smoking and performing regular physical activity are beneficial for many reasons, including lowering your risk of colorectal cancer.

Cigarette smoking. Smokers have a 30% to 40% increased risk of colorectal cancer compared with nonsmokers. Cigarette smoking increases the likelihood both of developing adenomas and of their becoming cancerous.

Physical activity. Having a sedentary lifestyle has also been implicated as a risk factor for colorectal disease. Studies have shown a 50% decrease in risk of colon cancer among people who walk briskly three to four hours a week. People who are even more physically active may be able to decrease their risk of colon cancer by 70%. Increasing one’s level of physical activity can also prove beneficial in preventing many other diseases such as cardiovascular disease and in controlling Type 2 diabetes.

Aspirin. Regular aspirin use has been shown to help prevent colorectal cancer, but taking aspirin for the sole purpose of preventing cancer is not recommended at this time. The side effects of aspirin, such as bleeding in the stomach, outweigh the benefits.

Energy balance. Cancer researchers use the term “energy balance” to describe the interaction of diet, physical activity, and genetics, the effect of this interaction on growth and body weight over a person’s lifetime, and the ways in which these factors may influence cancer risk. The National Cancer Institute is currently supporting research into the complex issue of energy balance, or energetics, and its effect on cancer outcomes.

One step at a time
The best path to successful prevention of colorectal cancer incorporates all of the diet and lifestyle recommendations mentioned in this article. However, making even a single lifestyle change is beneficial. Most important, people with diabetes should follow the American Cancer Society’s screening guidelines for colorectal cancer to detect the disease early if it develops. (For more information about colorectal cancer prevention and treatment, see “Cancer Resources.”)

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Also in this article:
Cancer Resources
Screening for Colorectal Cancer



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