Reduce Your Colorectal Cancer Risk through Lifestyle Modification

By Danielle Staub, MS, RD, CDN
Registered Dietitian, Division of Digestive Disease

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.  You can reduce your risk and celebrate Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month by:

Staying at a healthy weight

A higher body mass index (BMI) increases the risk, especially among men.  Abdominal obesity shows the strongest association with colon cancer risk (1).

Every small change in weight counts! Stop drinking calorie-rich sweetened beverages,  use smaller plates to reduce portion sizes, and try to make half of your plate vegetables at each meal.  A food tracking application such as MyFitnessPal or the USDA Super Tracker can help you assess your daily calorie intake. 

Being physically active

For at least 30 minutes every day. Physical activity helps to lower cancer risk and improve immunity (1). Do the exercise you enjoy—brisk walking, swimming, jogging, biking, or dancing. As your fitness level improves, aim for 60 minutes of moderate or 30 minutes of vigorous activity every day.

Increasing fiber intake

Every 10 grams of fiber you eat each day, there is a 10% decreased risk of colon cancer (2). Gradually increase fiber in your diet by increasing fiber-rich plant based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and lentils. Aim for at least 25-35 grams of fiber per day and make sure to drink plenty of water!

Limiting red meat and avoid processed meats altogether

Both red and processed meats increase the risk of colorectal cancer, with processed meat increasing the risk twofold.  Try to reduce your red meat intake to less than 18 ounces a week which equals up to 6oz of red meat (cooked), 3 times per week.

Red meat includes beef, pork, lamb, and goat and cooking red meat at high temperatures (grilling or broiling) can produce carcinogens which can further increase risk of cancer.  

Processed meats include bacon, sausage, hot dogs, pepperoni, salami, pastrami, bologna, beef jerky, corned beef, deli/lunch meats.  These are preserved by smoking, curing, salting or with chemical preservatives.

To startwhy not add at least one meatless meal into your week?  Instead of red meat try chicken breast, lean ground turkey, fish, eggs, beans, and tofu.

Refraining from Alcohol

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends avoiding alcohol as it can increase the risk of colorectal cancer in both men and women.  Therefore  limit your consumption to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women for cancer prevention.

More garlic!  

Eating more garlic is associated with decreased risk of colorectal cancer.  (1). Add extra garlic to sauces, marinades, and salad dressings. Raw garlic is best, but roasted garlic is also a fantastic addition to any meal.

To learn more about colorectal cancer screening, risk factors, surgical options please go to
Please join us for COLORECTAL CANCER AWARENESS DAY On FRIDAY April 1st in the Riverview Terrace

(1) World Cancer Research Fund Continuous Update Project: Colorectal Cancer 2011 Report. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Colorectal Cancer:
(2) World Cancer Research Fund, American Institute for Cancer Research. Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective. 2007.