Could Diet Stop Colon Cancer?

Bowel cancer is a disease that begins as a small growth on the lining of the bowel. This growth, called a polyp can be easily removed through surgery, but if it is not it can develop into a cancerous tumour, which can then grow through the bowel wall and spread to other organs nearby.

Every year over 140,00.00 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and over 50,000 die from the disease. These are very high numbers for a disease that can virtually be prevented by diet and lifestyle. In fact 35% of bowel cancers could be prevented through diet and lifestyle changes.

Diet And Colon Cancer

According to Professor James Varani at the University of Michigan, a diet low in fiber but high in red and processed meats increases the risk of bowel cancer. It is also known that a diet high in saturated fat puts a person at an increased risk of developing bowel cancer, as well as being overweight.

Fruit and vegetables provides the most fiber, vitamins and minerals in the western diet today, and consuming a diet rich in these types of foods appears to be associated with a lower risk of bowel cancer.

There have been studies that have suggested that fiber intake, in particular, ones from whole grains, may lower colorectal cancer risk.

Another dietary risk to developing colorectal cancer is increased alcohol intake, especially among men. In several studies it was found that there was a 19% increase in risk for an increase of 100g/week. There was an increase in colon cancer risk in men and women separately at this level of consumption, and an increase in rectal cancer for the same intake in men only.

Vitamins, calcium, and magnesium

In some studies it has been suggested that taking daily multi-vitamins containing folic acid, or folate, may lower colorectal cancer risk. However, there is a word of caution on these results as other studies have stated the reverse and showed that folic acid might help existing tumors to grow.  However, more research is required in this area.

Also, there are some studies that suggest increasing calcium intake to lower colorectal cancer risk. But because increased levels of calcium may be a possible risk of prostate cancer in men, it is not recommended that men increase their calcium intake in order to prevent colon cancer.

Whilst calcium and vitamin D may work together to reduce colorectal cancer risk, some studies have not found that these supplements reduce risk.

In a few studies it has been found that a diet high in magnesium reduced colorectal cancer risk especially in women.

Obesity And Colorectal Cancer

Most studies have found that there is a risk factor of colon cancer and being overweight or obese. This applies to both men and women but the link is stronger in respect to men.

Among men, a higher BMI is strongly associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer. It appears that the distribution of body fat is the important factor, with abdominal obesity, showing the strongest association with colon cancer risk.

The larger waist size is associated with increased colon cancer risk in men (33% risk increase per 10cm waist circumference increase) and women (16% risk increase per 10cm waist circumference increase).

A number of reasons have been put forward for the association of obesity with increased colon cancer risk. One reason is that high levels of insulin in obese people may increase or promote colon cancer development.

What You Should Do To Prevent Colon Cancer

It is well documented that people who eat a diet high in fiber can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer. Therefore, the best advice about diet to possibly reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to:

  • Limit or eliminate your intake of red and processed meats.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits.
  • Avoid obesity and weight gain around the midsection.
  • Avoid excess alcohol.

Further Reading:

Learn the Facts About Colon Cancer Symptoms As Early Detection Saves Lives



Moskal, A., et al., Alcohol intake and colorectal cancer risk: A dose-response meta-analysis of published cohort studies. Int J Cancer, 2007. 120(3):664-71ferences:


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