Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in America. As obesity rates have increased, the number of colorectal cancer cases has too. Diets that are high in red and processed meats (beef, lamb, hot dogs, and pork) may increase your colorectal cancer risks. Also, frying, grilling, broiling, or other methods of cooking these meats at very high temperatures (above 300 degrees F) create chemicals on the meat that may also contribute to an increased risk. Eating more colorful fruits and vegetables, including kale, berries, yellow and orange peppers, and any foods that are high in fiber, may help reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Lifestyle factors contribute to your risk, too. Drinking alcohol heavily, smoking, and not exercising are all risk factors for colorectal cancer.
What to Watch Out For
The good news is that more people are being screened earlier and that means they have a better chance of never developing colorectal cancer. When a person has polyps, for example, which are growths in the inner lining of the colon, they can be removed and never develop into cancerous tumors. According to the Research Institute for Gastroenterology and Liver Diseases, most colon polyps do not cause symptoms. So, in order to catch them and catch them early, prevention is the key. Polyps are most often discovered during colorectal health screenings such as stool testing or surveillance colonoscopy.
While polyps may not cause symptoms, colorectal cancer sometimes does. If you have any of these symptoms, please see a qualified healthcare practitioner:
- Weakness and fatigue
- Excessive abdominal gas
- Weight loss without diet change
- Iron-deficient anemia
- Change in bowel habits, including reoccurring diarrhea or constipation
- Pain with bowel movements
- Blood in stool
Many cancers thrive on glucose. The more you eat of it, the more cancer cells can feed off it.
Don’t Eat SAD
Not eating the standard American diet (SAD), which is defined as highly processed foods that are high in fat and sugar while low in fiber, is one of the biggest changes people can make to reduce their risk of colorectal cancer.
Sugary foods have been found to provide fuel for most cancers. Refined sugar has no positive effects and especially is not helpful for those with a cancer diagnosis. Many cancers thrive on glucose. The more you eat of it, the more cancer cells can feed off it. Part of many treatment plans emphasize that patients start a low simple sugar diet.
The general recommendation is to eat foods that are high in antioxidants and phytonutrients. In addition, research published by Biological Trace Element Research this year showed that selenium reduced the progression of colon cancer in animal studies.
Selenium is a natural mineral that is found in soil, water, and some foods. While people only need a very small amount of selenium, larger doses have been studied in at-risk populations and were found to possibly play a role in decreasing growth rates of polyps. Foods that offer good amounts of selenium include Brazil nuts, garlic, onions, sunflower seeds, salmon, sardines, halibut, brown rice, and mushrooms. Garlic also has antibacterial properties, which may help protect higher-risk groups against problematic bacteria, certain kinds of which can cause cancer.
Likewise, anti-inflammatory foods, such as salmon, mackerel, flax seeds, and olive oil, can help support healthy intestinal tissue. Another option for those looking to keep their colons healthy is to eat more lignans—plant-based antioxidants that are high in fiber and protein, such flaxseed and sesame seeds. Also, drinking green tea can be beneficial. The catechins in the tea have been found to rapidly induce apoptosis, or the death of unwanted, abnormal cells.
THE DIRTY DOZEN
Other modern-day risk factors for colorectal cancer that you should be aware of are the pesticides that are sprayed on food. Each year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a list of fruits and vegetables that have been tested and shown to be considered “dirty” or have had more pesticide residues detected on them than other produce that year. If you are unable to purchase exclusively organic foods, the list will help you decide which produce to buy organic and which you can save some money on and buy conventionally grown.
All samples were of conventionally grown produce:
Strawberries10 or more pesticide residues were detected
Spinachrelatively high concentrations of permethrin were detected
Nectarinestwo or more pesticide