The colon, also referred to as the large intestine, plays a crucial role in our health. As food goes through the colon, salt and liquid are eliminated to prepare it for removal.
Colon cancer has been in the news after the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded in late 2015 that processed meat can cause colon cancer in human and classify it as a Group 1 carcinogen.
The good news is that colon cancer can be prevented through the following lifestyle factors for up to 50%.
Top Tips for Colon Cancer Prevention
1. Eat More Vegetables and Some Fruits
Vegetables contain antioxidants and disease-fighting compounds like magnesium. It has been scientifically shown that for every 100-milligram increase in magnesium, the risk of colon cancer decreased by 12%.In addition to magnesium, phytochemicals found in veggies can remove carcinogens and reduce inflammation.
Cruciferous veggies are especially beneficial due to their sulforaphane content. This compound has been found to stop the growth of colon cancer-derived tumors.
2. Eat More Fiber
Dietary fiber has been linked with a decreased risk of colorectal cancer, particularly distal colon cancer and colorectal adenoma. For every 10 grams of fiber, the risk of colon cancer decreases by 10%.
A 2005 study revealed that dried plums “favorably altered … colon cancer risk factors” in rats, possibly due to their high content of dietary fiber and polyphenolics.
3. Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels
Vitamin D positively affects the immune system, which helps keep the growth of cancer tumors in check. According to researchers:
“Evidence suggests protective effects of vitamin D and antitumour immunity on colorectal cancer risk.
Immune cells in tumour microenvironment can convert 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] [vitamin D] to bioactive 1α,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3, which influences neoplastic and immune cells
… High plasma 25(OH)D level is associated with lower risk of colorectal cancer with intense immune reaction, supporting a role of vitamin D in cancer immunoprevention through tumour–host interaction.”
4. Avoid Processed Meats
Processed meats like salami, hot dogs, bacon, ham, sausages, and hamburgers contain nitrates, compounds which are quite concerning. They are converted into nitrosamines, which are linked to an increased risk of certain cancers. AICR warns that “there is no safe threshold” for eating processed meats.
It has been scientifically shown that those who eat the most red meat are at 24% higher risk of colon cancer compared to those who eat the least. The problem with red meat is the way it is cooked and the source it comes from. For example, grass-fed beef contains cancer-fighting compounds.
Red meat that is fried, barbecued ( cooked at high temperatures in general) is likely to contain carcinogens such as heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
Exercising on a regular basis notably reduces the risk of colon cancer. According to one study, active individuals have 30-40% reduction in their colon cancer risk compared to inactive individuals.
Exercise lowers insulin levels, which is one of the best way to reduce cancer risk. Certain studies even suggested that exercise triggers apoptosis, causing the cancerous cells to die.
7. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity has been associated with higher risk for a couple of cancers, including colon cancer. According to a 2014 study which analyzed data from over 5 million people, every 11-pound increase in body weight led to an increased risk for ten type of cancer.
8. Limit Your Alcohol Intake and Quit Smoking
Both of these habits are linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. When it comes to alcohol, moderate alcohol intake involves 1 ounce of hard liquor, a 12-ounce beer, or a 5-ounce glass of wine with a meal daily.
9. Eat Garlic
People who eat a lot of raw garlic have a lower risk of colorectal and stomach cancers. In addition, among those with inoperable forms of colon, pancreatic, or liver cancer, taking garlic for six months led to improved immune function.