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How Diet Plays a Role in Colorectal Cancer Risk Reduction

Medically reviewed by Regina Victoria Boyles, MD · Pediatrics

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 22, 2023

How Diet Plays a Role in Colorectal Cancer Risk Reduction

Can a Diet Regimen Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

Before we proceed with our discussion, let’s first get our facts straight: no single dietary regimen prevents colorectal cancer.

Remember that other risk factors also come into play besides what we eat or drink, such as family history and underlying health conditions.

However, we also cannot deny that numerous studies have already pointed out that some foods increase or decrease our colorectal cancer risk. Knowing about these foods helps us transition to a healthier diet that potentially makes us less vulnerable to the condition.

How Diet Plays a Role in Colorectal Cancer

The exact connection between diet and colorectal cancer is still unknown, but experts have some theories.

For one, your diet influences your weight, and some studies see a relationship between obesity and cancer. Additionally, excess weight is also a risk factor for increased insulin, which may result in the formation of tumors.

The good news is that most of the good foods for the colon are also foods that promote our overall health.

So, transitioning to a healthy diet is truly a win-win situation.

how diet plays a role in colorectal cancer

Dietary Guidelines To Reduce Colon Cancer Risk

Do you want to reduce your colon cancer risk? If so, consider the following dietary suggestions:

1. Limit red meat consumption

Whether or not red meat “causes” colorectal cancer is still up for debate. But, numerous studies suggest that long-term consumption potentially increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

To put this into context, experts say that eating a small hamburger (100 g of red meat) or a piece of hot dog (50 g of red meat) daily increases colorectal cancer risk by up to 20%.

You don’t need to eliminate red meat altogether, but if you want to reduce your risk, limiting your consumption can help.

2. Focus on fruits, vegetables, and fish

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables with a moderate intake of fish plays a role in colorectal cancer risk reduction.

In a study investigating the cancer incidence rate and diets of 78,000 participants, the researchers discovered that a pesco-vegetarian diet, one dominated by fruits and vegetables with moderate fish, is associated with 45% reduced colorectal cancer risk.

They also indicated that vegetarians have a 22% less risk of colorectal cancer than meat-eaters.

3. Bulk up on fiber and choose grains carefully

If you’re looking for what foods to eat for a healthy colon, always keep fiber in mind.

Reports say that fiber adds bulk to the digestive system. As a result, it decreases the amount of time that waste materials stay and travel through the digestive tract.

And since waste materials often contain carcinogens, decreasing the amount of time they stay in the tract means they’ll have less chance to affect the colon.

The best way to add fiber to the diet is to consume fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, which you can find in oats, brown rice, or whole wheat flour.

If possible, reduce intake of white flour and rice as they have fewer benefits than their whole-grain counterpart.

4. Load up on calcium

A diet with adequate calcium also plays a role in colorectal cancer risk. Studies show that high calcium intake is associated with lower risk.

However, the American Cancer Society strongly discourages men from consuming high amounts of calcium because of its link to prostate cancer.

As such, the next best thing to do is to make sure that you’re getting enough calcium in your diet.

What To Eat After Colorectal Cancer Diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your doctor will most probably talk about your diet.

It may still include the guidelines we explained above, but there might be changes depending on your condition. For instance, the doctor may suggest small, frequent meals instead of three full meals daily.

Key Takeaways

Studies show that diet plays a role in colorectal cancer risk. Some foods increase your risk, while others significantly reduce it.

However, please remember that along with a balanced diet, you should also practice other potentially preventive measures such as performing regular exercise and quitting smoking. Of course, don’t forget to consult your doctor about the right screening tests and procedures.

Learn more about Colorectal Cancer here


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Regina Victoria Boyles, MD


Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated Jan 22, 2023

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