March 05, 2024

5 Ways to Decrease Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women; it is also the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a month set aside to increase awareness and education of colon cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, almost half (47%) of colorectal cancer could be prevented or significantly delayed with lifestyle and diet modifications. Here are five ways to help you fight colorectal cancer.

1. Plant food intake that is high in fiber.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a daily intake of 2 ½ cups of vegetables, 2 cups of fruit, and 6 oz. of grains (half of which is encouraged to be whole grains). If you are someone who doesn’t consume a lot of plant foods, these amounts can seem unattainable. This goal can be made less intimidating by including ½ cup of vegetables and fruits at each of your meals and snacks. Before you know it, you will be a pro at eating your fruits and vegetables. By choosing to eat more fruits and vegetables you will be increasing your fiber intake at the same time.

2. Limit intake of red meats and avoid intake of processed meats.

Diets high in the red meats (beef, pork, and lamb) and intake of processed meats (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and cold cuts) increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. To reduce your risk, it is recommended to consume less than 18 oz. per week of red meats and avoid intake of processed meats. This doesn’t mean you can’t eat any meats. There are many options available to increase the variety of meats you consume. Meats that don’t carry these same risks are poultry (chicken, turkey, and etc.) and seafood (tuna, shrimp, salmon, cod, and etc.).

3. Limit alcohol intake.

If alcohol is something that you consume, it is recommended to limit daily intake to 1 drink (12 oz. of beer, 5 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of liquor).

4. Increase physical activity.

Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes each day. Activity can be simple and broken up throughout the day, 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 minutes after work is one way to reach the daily goal. Exercise may include walking, hiking, biking, running, swimming, or something that gets you moving. The important thing to do is to remember to move your body.

5. Prevent weight gain throughout life.

Increasing your plant food intake and physical activity will help prevent weight gain throughout life. If you are already considered overweight or obese, weight loss can help reduce your risk as well.

In addition to making lifestyle modifications, Dr. Elizabeth John, Gastroenterologist at Mountainside Medical Group Montville and Montclair locations, encourages everyone 45 and older to get regular colon screenings. She shares, “If you think of your health like a bank account, you’d ideally like to work from a net positive. Getting your colonoscopy early BEFORE a polyp has the time to become a cancer translates into making a positive deposit into your bank account. It leaves you starting at a net positive. Such that when withdrawals (genetics, diet, smoking, etc.) from your bank account are made, you’ve already covered your bases. Those factors are withdrawing from an already net positive bank account because you obtained your baseline screening colonoscopy where your gastroenterologist will preemptively remove anything that could become more problematic down the line.

Further, have someone you trust do your procedure. I hear some patients describe colonoscopies as a ‘concierge’ service that anyone anywhere can do for you. Yes, anyone can theoretically do your procedure. But you want it to be someone with character - someone who does the right thing even when no one is watching. Someone who you feel you can trust. And someone who doesn’t kick you to the curb after they’ve done your procedures, but rather uses the nuances of your gastrointestinal tract to create an individualized treatment plan for your current or potentially future symptoms.”

To learn more about colon screenings, visit


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