If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, you might be wondering if there are any changes you can make to your diet or lifestyle to help reduce your risk. Of course, it’s not possible to prevent all cancers, but that doesn’t mean you are powerless. According to the American Cancer Society, up to 60% of colorectal cancer deaths can be prevented. There are three main pathways to colon cancer prevention: diet, lifestyle, and screening.
Overall, a healthy diet is your best defense against colorectal cancer. Drinking plenty of water is essential as well. Studies show that people who eat more fruits and vegetables lower their overall cancer risk. Fiber may also help prevent colon cancer, which is present in foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in avocado, olive oil, and fatty fish, can help as well.
You can also limit processed foods, specifically processed meats like bacon and sausage, as well as pro-inflammatory oils and saturated fats, namely butter, lard, and canola oil. Reducing caffeine and alcohol intake may also reduce risk.
Are there any cancer preventing dietary supplements?
There has been a lot of exciting and emerging research in this area and more should be coming out in the upcoming years. Currently, there is no expert consensus on dietary supplement recommendations for cancer prevention. However, here are some promising candidates:
Antioxidant supplements (Vitamin C, E, Selenium) may decrease oxidative stress from free radicals in the body that can contribute to pre-cancerous changes in cells. So far, there has been no definitive evidence showing that this decrease in oxidative stress translates to fewer cancer cases. Other studies have shown that patients currently undergoing cancer treatment may have worse outcomes when taking antioxidants, so anyone who is currently undergoing cancer treatment should consult with a healthcare provider prior to taking antioxidant supplements.
Omega-3 supplements are a promising area of research in cancer prevention. Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly present in foods like avocado and olive oil, lower inflammation in the body. Some studies have demonstrated a benefit in cancer prevention for colorectal cancer specifically. There is conflicting data on omega-3 supplementation in active cancer cases.
Vitamin D supplementation may help prevent cancer, as low vitamin D is associated with an increased risk for colorectal cancer. Since large amounts of sun exposure can increase skin cancer risk, it may be most beneficial to use oral vitamin D supplements.
These supplements are generally low-risk for otherwise healthy people and have minimal side effects. Discuss your specific case with a healthcare provider before beginning a supplement regimen.
Several lifestyle factors are associated with a decreased risk for colorectal cancer. Maintaining a healthy weight can be beneficial; talk to a healthcare provider to obtain a healthy weight goal for you. Being active and exercising also decreases risk – try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (brisk walking, leisurely bike riding, mowing your lawn) several times per week.
Alcohol and tobacco use are associated with an increased cancer risk. Limit alcohol use to approximately one drink per day and quit smoking if applicable.
An essential part of cancer prevention is regular screening. The current recommendation is to begin screening at age 45 for low to moderate risk adults. Talk to your doctor about individual recommendations for colon cancer screening.
Do you have additional questions, or do you want individualized diet and lifestyle recommendations from our registered dietitian? Call today to make an appointment!