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Your Colon Cancer Prevention Action Plan

Colon Cancer Prevention Action Plan

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month – use this time to learn your personal risk factors and what you can do to prevent the disease.


Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in Americans. Recently, there have been two major reports on the incidence of colon cancer among Americans – one good and one not-so-good.

The first found that, in older Americans, the rate of colorectal cancer fell 32% since 2000 and deaths from the disease decreased by 34%. The likely reason for the positive decline for colon cancer rates? Early detection from screening, such as getting a colonoscopy beginning at age 50 (or sooner for those at higher risk, such as those with a family history) is the most likely reason. Declines in the rate of smoking is also considered a positive for the reduction in colon cancer cases.

Unfortunately, though colon and rectal cancer rates are rising among those younger than 55. Researchers say that someone born in 1990 has about twice the risk of colon cancer and four times the risk of rectal cancer than someone of the same age who had been born in 1950.

Most cases of colon cancer still occur among those over 55, but still there were 11,000 people in their 40s and 4000 people under 40 who were diagnosed in 2013.

The reasons for the increase isn’t completely known, but there are of course several theories. The rise in obesity has closely mirrored the trends in colorectal cancer, says Rebecca Siegel, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society. A 2014 study found that for every 5-point increase in BMI there was an associated 10% increased risk of colon cancer.

Young people may also ignore symptoms longer. And by the time you have significant symptoms, the disease could already be more advanced.

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Dr. Joel Fuhrman MD, family physician and best-selling author, promotes a plant-based diet for overall health, including for the reduction in risk for colon cancer. He suggests the following “action plan”:

Many plant foods have been found to contain cancer-fighting nutrients, with the following foods appearing to provide significant benefits specific to colorectal cancer:
• Seeds—Seeds are high in fiber and have anti-inflammatory properties, which lower risk.
• Green vegetables, particularly cruciferous vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, and collards)—Cruciferous vegetables contain high amounts of special sulfur-containing compounds that fight cancer and have been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer
• Garlic and onions—Similar to cruciferous vegetables, garlic and onions have special sulphur-containing compounds that help fight cancer.
• Legumes (beans, lentils)— Fiber is especially protective in the colon, in part because gut bacteria break down fiber (and resistant starch) into short-chain fatty acids which have anti-cancer effects
• Mushrooms—Mushrooms are rich in beta-glucan, which has anti-cancer effects
• Berries—Eating berries (strawberries, blackberries, cranberries, blueberries, etc.) have been shown to help fight cancer, likely related to their high fiber and flavonoid content.

Reducing foods that are associated with higher risk, such as processed foods and animal products, is also an important strategy in reducing colon cancer risk. Red and processed meats in particular promote colorectal cancers, in part due to dietary carcinogens, such as heterocyclic amines and N-nitroso compounds. Animal products promote anabolic hormones (especially IGF-1) that can induce cell proliferation increasing the risk or growth of the cancer.

Regular physical activity is associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer. Studies have shown that exercising 4-5 hours/week reduces the risk of colon cancer recurrence and mortality significantly.

Weight Loss
Obesity increases the risk of several cancers, including cancers of the colon and rectum. Obesity is also associated with poorer prognosis in colorectal cancers.

American Cancer Society, news release, March 1, 2017
Dr. Fuhrman – Smart Nutrition, Superior Health

Photo Credit:
By Pete O'Shea [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons