Some of the more important risk factors for colorectal cancer appear to be: excessive energy intake (eating too much), high fat-low fiber-high sugar diet, red meats, refined grains, alcohol, omega 6 fatty acids and trans fatty acids , iron, physical inactivity, obesity, constipation, colonic inflammation, and family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
Low-fat diet – Diets high in fat and cholesterol (especially from animal sources) have been linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Red meat may also contribute to colon cancer by virtue of its high iron content. Both high dietary iron and high serum (blood) iron have been associated with increased risk to colon cancer. Iron and fat both decrease manganese superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity in the cells lining the colon. Manganese SOD has tumor suppressive activity and has been found lacking in most colon tumors. Supplementation with manganese can increase the activity of this enzyme. Iron is also a necessary nutrient for the growth of strains of intestinal bacteria that contribute to colon cancer. Iron may additionally contribute to colorectal cancer by spurring the production of highly destructive free radicals, which can convert procarcinogens to carcinogens and can also directly damage genetic material. This process is augmented by components of bile. To reduce fat in your diet, you can change your eating and cooking habits. Major sources of fat are meat, eggs, dairy products, and oils used in cooking and salad dressings.
Increase Fiber Intake – Low-fiber diets have also been associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer. Fiber also leads to reduced production of secondary bile acids, adsorbs bile acids, increases fecal bulk thus diluting carcinogens, speeds transit time , tends to reduce caloric intake, and lowers pH by the production of short chain fatty acids. It is important to consume both soluble and insoluble fibers to gain all these benefits. The National Cancer Institute recommends a high-fiber diet that includes at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. To increase the amount of fiber in your diet, eat more vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain breads and cereals.
Get a genetic test done – People who carry genetic mutations linked to hereditary colorectal cancer are the most likely to develop the disease. Individuals who carry the mutation that causes Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) have almost a 100% chance of developing colorectal cancer by age 45. Someone who carries mutations linked to Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC) can have up to an 80% risk of developing the disease. FAP and HNPCC are the most common types of hereditary colorectal cancer. To catch any abnormalities or problems early, you will need regular checkups from your doctor, including a rectal exam, fecal occult blood test, and possibly a sigmoidoscopy. Screening recommendations depend upon an individual’s risk of colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is recommended starting at age 50 and repeated every 10 years.
Limit your alcohol intake – People who drink more than one alcoholic beverage a day tend to develop colorectal cancer more often than those who do not drink alcohol.
Birth control pills – Women who take birth control pills for at least 5 years have a lower risk of colon cancer. However, birth control pills can raise the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and stroke. Talk with your doctor about whether you should take birth control pills.
Take a multivitamin with folate daily – People who take a multivitamin with folate every day have a lower risk of colon cancer. Folate is one of the B vitamins, which helps keeps cells in the colon from becoming cancerous. Folate is a B-complex vitamin, which may protect the genetic material in cells, such as DNA. Folate is found in green, leafy vegetables, wheat germ and fortified whole grain cereals to name a few.
Increase your activity level – If you’re inactive, you’re more likely to develop colon cancer, although not rectal cancer. This may be because when you’re inactive, waste stays in your colon longer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer. A person is considered physically active if they exercise for at least 30 minutes a day.
Keep your weight in check- Among postmenopausal women, excess body weight is a statistically significant risk factor for the development of colorectal cancer, according to results of a new study. There have been consistent observational data that have suggested high body mass index is a risk factor for colon and rectal cancer among women at younger age. But excess body weight is a controversial risk factor for colorectal cancer among postmenopausal women. Dr. Paul Limburg of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and colleagues assessed excess body weight, defined as a BMI > 25, as a predictor of incident colorectal cancer among 35,354 women in the prospective Iowa Women’s Health Study.
Don’t smoke – As many as 20% of all colorectal cancer cases may be related to tobacco use, and colorectal cancer should be added to the growing list of tobacco-associated malignancies, according to a study in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention (Volume 10, No. 7: 725-731). Duration of smoking is more important than volume in raising cancer risk, although volume certainly does play a role. colorectal cancer risk also is elevated in people who have smoked cigars for 20 years or more.
Inflammatory intestinal conditions – Long standing inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can increase your risk. When it comes to attacking those last two points, you can reduce your overall cancer risk by consuming a plant-based diet of fruits, vegetables, vegetable oils, whole grains and legumes, and by maintaining your weight. In addition, current research has supported the relationship between folate, calcium and lutein and the prevention of colorectal cancers.