What lifestyle habits can decrease my risk of colon cancer?


Lifestyle habits play a role in terms of decreasing your risk of colon polyps and colon cancer. A healthy lifestyle includes exercise and a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables and lean proteins and minimizing refined or processed foods.

Dr. Daniel M. Labow, MD
Surgical Oncologist

Probably the most important lifestyle habit to help avoid the risk of colon cancer is to make sure you get a colonoscopy at age 50. This can prevent a cancer from developing at all! Otherwise, high fiber, low fat diet, no smoking and minimal alcohol with regular exercise are excellent health habits.

Studies of different populations have identified associations that may affect an individual’s risk of developing colorectal cancer, or the precancerous lesions called polyps. Smoking clearly increases the risk of colorectal cancer and other cancers. Studies have shown a slight increased risk of developing colorectal cancer among individuals with higher red meat or non-dairy (meat-associated) fat intake.

Studies have also shown that getting an adequate amount of calcium and vitamin D in the diet or from supplements can reduce the risk of polyps. A plant based diet that is high in fiber may also help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Use of aspirin and NSAIDs (such as celecoxib and sulindac) have been proven to decrease the risk of colorectal polyps. However, the use of these agents is reserved for individuals at high risk for colorectal polyps and cancer.

Ongoing studies evaluating the role of vitamins and other natural products are underway to examine their role in colorectal polyp prevention. Although few studies have been able to show definitively that modifying lifestyle reduces the risk of colorectal polyps or cancer, lifestyle changes such as reducing dietary fat, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, ensuring adequate vitamin and micro-nutrient intake, and exercise, will all improve general health. Regardless of your dietary and lifestyle habits, screening for colorectal polyps is the key in preventing colorectal cancer. Talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening.

Eating a healthy, low-fat, high-fiber diet is the best thing you can do to prevent the development of polyps and colon cancer. Maintaining a healthy, active lifestyle including cardiac activity 30 to 40 minutes four to five times a week can help, too. You can prevent colon cancer by not smoking and by avoiding red meat in your diet.

Dr. Christine M. Bouchard, MD
Colorectal Surgeon

Some lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. They contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants that may play a role in prevention. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink and stop smoking. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least 5 times per week.

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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.