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Eating to prevent colon cancer

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While 90% of colon cancer occurs in adults over the age of 50, colon cancer diagnosis are on the rise in millennials. While researchers are still trying to figure out why, colon cancer still remains the number one most preventable cancer. Here is what the latest research shows us:

Read closely - what we eat, and how fit we are, can impact our colon cancer risk.

The bad: According to the Second Expert Report on Food Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer of the Colon and Rectum, the following has strong evidence to increase risk of colon cancer:

  • Red meat (beef, pork, lamb and goat fall into this category)
    • Goal: eat less than 18 ounces per week
  • Processed meats (bacon, ham, salami, hot dogs, sausage, packaged lunch meats, meats that have been smoked/cured)
    • Avoid if possible
  • Alcohol
  • Excess abdominal fat

The best: The following have strong evidence to decrease your risk of colon cancer:

  • Fiber
    • Risk drops 10% for every 10 grams increase in fiber. Traditionally, fiber was classified as soluble(linked with lower blood cholesterol) or insoluble (linked with better intestinal regularity). While these terms are still seen in some studies, each includes types of fiber that act quite differently. Increase your fiber intake by consuming fresh fruits and vegetables. Consume whole grains like brown rice, whole wheat couscous, bulgur, barley, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta. Include more legumes through your week like dried beans (peas and lentils). Munch on nuts and seeds as a healthy, high fiber snack.

The good: The following have probable evidence to decrease you risk of colon cancer:

  • Garlic
  • Dairy
  • Calcium
    • Several studies show that calcium and vitamin D help protect against colorectal cancer. Bump up your intake through food! No need to go overboard here and start taking supplements, unless indicated by your doctor. There is a possible increase risk of prostate cancer in men with high calcium intake: think milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon, dark greens, and eggs to help meet your needs.

What else can you do? Here are Methodist Health System's Top 10 tips to prevent colon cancer:

  • Be as lean as possible (without being underweight)
  • Be physically active daily (goal is 30 minutes a day). In fact, exercise can reduce your colon cancer risk by 30-40%
  • Avoid sugary drinks opting for water
  • Limit fried foods, baked goods, and desserts
  • Eat fruits and veggies daily (aim for 9 servings a day) - ½ of your plate at lunch and dinner should be fruits and veggies
  • Eliminate alcohol. If you do drink, limit to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women
  • Limit sodium intake
  • Limit consumption of red and processed meats
  • Increase consumption of fiber and legumes (aka beans) (goal is 25-38 grams of fiber per day)
  • Don't smoke

Join us for Sparks of Strength on Thursday, March 30 at Methodist Dallas. Hear from doctors, nutritionists, and other experts at this free event about colorectal cancer and how to prevent it. Register here.