How Can I Lower My Risk of Colon Cancer?

June 14, 2021

How can i lower my risk of colon cancer?

diet, exercise and diabetes controL

by Jamal Ross

There are a number of characteristics about ourselves and choices we can make that place us at a higher risk for colon cancer. As with many cancers, some factors, such as eating a healthy diet, controlling diabetes and becoming more active, are under our control and influenced by the decisions we make. These are called modifiable risk factors. By knowing the risks we can control, we are better able to make lifestyle choices that can keep colon cancer at bay. Let’s find out more about some of the things we can do to lower our risk of colon cancer.

There are medical conditions that lead to a higher risk of colon cancer. In particular obesity and diabetes have been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer. Obesity has been shown not only to increase the rate at which colon cancer occurs, but also the chance of dying from this disease as well. Those with diabetes have about a 38% chance of getting colon cancer when compared to those who do not have diabetes. (1) As mention previously, those with disease of the colon, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, can be up to 5 to 15 times more likely to get colon cancer in their disease is long standing, uncontrolled and involves the majority of the colon. (2) Therefore, it is important to lose weight, control your diabetes and make sure you are on the right medications for your ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Our diet plays important role in our risk of colon cancer. Specially, the amount of red and processed meat as well as the quantity of alcohol we consume in our diet can increase our risk of colon cancer. Interestingly, in 2015 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified consumption of processed meat as carcinogen and the intake of red meat as probably carcinogen. What does this mean? Eating processed and red meat can cause cancer, particularly colon cancer. Eating 100 grams of processed meat per day can increase the risk of colon cancer by 23%. Eating 50 grams of red meat every day can increase the risk of colon cancer by 22% (3). On the other hand, a diet high in fiber, fruits, vegetable and folate while low in calories help protect against colon cancer.

Also, not only can excessive alcohol intake increase the risk of throat, breast, stomach, liver and kidney cancer; it has also been shown that alcoholic intake can increased the risk of colon cancer. In those who are moderate or heavy drinkers, there is a 21 to 52% increase in risk of colon cancer compared with those who are light drinkers of alcohol. (4) At times, we can be a poor judge of our own drinking habits. In general, if you are drinking more than 1-2 alcoholic beverages each day on most day of the week, this is too much. Similar to excessive alcohol use, smoking has been linked to many cancers, including colon cancer, and should be avoided.

Our decision can greatly affect our chances of getting colon cancer. Weight loss control can go a long way to lower our risk of colon cancer. Decreasing, or eliminating, processed and red meat from our diet also has benefit as these kinds of foods seem to have cancer causing properties. Drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco not only causes colon cancer, but can also lead to many other cancers as well. If you have any disease of your colon, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, it is important that you follow regularly with your gastroenterologist to make sure you are on the right medications to control this condition. Controlling, or better yet preventing, diabetes can also also your risk of colon cancer. As always, pray the God gives you wisdom, strength and discipline to live a healthy lifestyle and make decisions that lead to better health.

1. Karahalios A, English DR, Simpson JA. Weight change and risk of colorectal cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Epidemiol. 2015 Jun 1;181(11):832-45.
2. Yuhara H, Steinmaus C, Cohen SE, Corley DA, Tei Y, Buffler PA. Is diabetes mellitus an independent risk factor for colon cancer and rectal cancer? Am J Gastroenterol. 2011 Nov;106(11):1911-21.
3. World Cancer Report. Cancer research for cancer prevention. Available at: (Accessed on April 27, 2020).
4. Fedirko V, Tramacere I, Bagnardi V, Rota M, Scotti L, Islami F, Negri E, Straif K, Romieu I, La Vecchia C, Boffetta P, Jenab M. Alcohol drinking and colorectal cancer risk: an overall and dose-response meta-analysis of published studies. Ann Oncol. 2011 Sep;22(9):1958-1972. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdq653. Epub 2011 Feb 9. PMID: 21307158.

Jamal Ross

Dr. Jamal Ross is an internist and pediatrician who possesses a passion for prayer and preventative medicine. He has worked in the fields of primary care and hospital medicine.

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