CANCER
September 12, 2017

Saved by Fiber

You can cut your colorectal cancer risk by eating more whole grains and less of these foods.

Would you be willing to tweak your diet and move a little more to reduce your risk of being diagnosed with the third most common cancer in the U.S.? A few simple lifestyle changes can make a significant difference in your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

The report by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research fund (WCRF) looked at research from around the world on how diet, weight and physical activity impacts the risk for cancer of the colon and rectum. Diet and physical activity were found to have a significant effect on the risk of developing the disease based on the evaluation of 99 studies involving 29 million people.

“The findings from this comprehensive report are robust and clear: Diet and lifestyle have a major role in colorectal cancer.”

Eating hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats on a regular basis, eating more than 18 ounces of red meat a week, and consuming more than two alcoholic drinks a week all increased the risk of a colorectal cancer diagnosis.

Eating three ounces of whole grains every day reduced the risk of the disease.

It also appears that people who eat less than a cup of non-starchy vegetables and a cup of fruit each day increased their risk for colorectal cancer, though the evidence wasn’t as strong. Limited evidence also suggested that eating fish and foods rich in vitamin C may lower the risk.

These findings point to the benefits of eating a plant-based diet. Alice Bender, Director of Nutrition Programs, explained in a statement: “Replacing some of your refined grains with whole grains and eating mostly plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables and beans, will give you a diet packed with cancer-protective compounds and help you manage your weight, which is so important to lower risk.”

Physical activity makes a difference, too. People who were more physically active had a smaller chance of developing colon cancer compared to those who were sedentary, though this didn’t apply to rectal cancer.

“Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers, yet this report demonstrates there is a lot people can do to dramatically lower their risk,” said Edward L. Giovannucci, lead author of the report and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, in a statement. “The findings from this comprehensive report are robust and clear: Diet and lifestyle have a major role in colorectal cancer.”

There are approximately 371 cases of colorectal cancer diagnosed in the U.S. every day, and AICR estimates that nearly half of those could be prevented through lifestyle changes.

The Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Colorectal Cancer report is available here.

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