How can I lower my risk of colon cancer?

Dr. Kathleen Wolin, ScD
Preventive Medicine Specialist

To lower your risk of colon cancer, you should include dairy and other foods that contain vitamin D and calcium in your diet. In this video, cancer researcher Kate Wolin, ScD, discusses how being active and maintaining a healthy weight are also key.

To reduce your risk for colorectal cancer, talk with your primary care provider about colorectal cancer screening. This substantially lowers the risk for developing cancer. It should begin in all patients by age 50, and sooner in those with a family history of colon cancer or high-risk conditions. Regular exercise and a diet high in fiber as well as high in fruits and vegetables have also been associated with a decreased risk for colorectal cancer.

Dr. Walter J. Coyle, MD

There are many different risk factors linked to colon cancer. Some of those you can't change, like a family history of the disease, genetics, race and age.

Other conditions that can increase your risk include inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn’s disease or colitis.

But you can lower your risk by changing any unhealthy lifestyle choices linked to colon cancer.

Diet is especially important, since the colon's job is to process the foods you eat. Focus your diet on fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains, but limit or stay away from high-fat foods, charred meats and processed foods.

In addition to a nutritious diet, follow basic rules for healthy living to reduce your risk even further. These would include not smoking, limiting alcohol use and exercising regularly. A brisk 30-minute walk each day (15 minutes up, 15 minutes back) is enough to make a difference. These same healthy choices can also reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and a number of other health conditions.

Even if you live a healthy lifestyle, it's important to get periodic colon cancer screenings. These are generally recommended starting at age 50, but talk to your doctor. You may need to start screening earlier if you have family history of colon cancer or other risk factors.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Here are some guiding principles to live by to lower your risk of getting colorectal cancer:

  • If you are experiencing bleeding, a change in the frequency and characteristics of your bowel movements (such as skinny stool), abdominal pain or unexplained fatigue, cramping or weight loss, go to the doctor as soon as possible.
  • Adopt a mostly plant-based diet, stay physically active, don't smoke tobacco, maintain a healthy weight, and limit processed grains and alcohol (no more than two drinks per day).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.