NEWS

These 6 Diet Changes Can Help Reduce Your Colorectal Cancer Risk

Woman cooking in the kitchen.

Galina Zhigalova / EyeEm / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide.
  • During National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, people can take proactive steps to reduce their risk.
  • Certain dietary habits, like limiting alcohol, eating whole grains, and including fish in the diet, may help.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time where people can learn more about the importance of colorectal cancer screening, prevention, and treatment. 

While some factors that increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer are completely out of your control, like your family history, other risk factors are not. 

Specifically, certain lifestyle factors can increase your risk of developing this potentially devastating cancer diagnosis, including:

  • Not exercising
  • Being obese
  • Smoking tobacco

And while it won’t be a magic bullet to avoiding a colorectal cancer diagnosis, making certain changes to your diet may help reduce your risk of developing this cancer, too. 

Here are six dietary tips that may help you keep a colorectal cancer diagnosis at bay.

What This Means For You

Regardless of your risk of developing colorectal cancer, including certain dietary habits may reduce your risk of developing this specific cancer, especially when combined with other positive lifestyle habits.

Limit Processed Red Meat

From hot dogs to salami, any red meat that has been cured, salted, smoked, or otherwise preserved, is not good for minimizing colorectal cancer risk.

In fact, data shows the risk increase of colorectal cancer is 12% for every 100 grams per day increase of red and processed meat intake, making this food one to limit or avoid.

Eat More Seafood

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommends at least 8 ounces of seafood per week (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) for most adults. Yet, most people are not coming close to meeting those recommendations. 

Including more seafood could be a wise choice, as seafood consumption may decrease colorectal cancer risk.

Focus on Fiber

Fiber helps keep bowel movements regular, indirectly playing a huge role in reducing colorectal cancer risk. By keeping things moving, cancer-causing agents can become diluted and fecal decreasing transit time can become reduced, thus limiting the contact between cancer-causing agents and the lining of the colon and rectum.

Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and legumes can help keep your body fueled with fiber. Including more than 20 grams per day of fiber is associated with a 25% decrease in colorectal cancer risk.

Drink Milk

The classic creamy beverage many of us grew up on may help reduce colorectal cancer risk when enjoyed every day. Some data shows that including a little over 2 cups reduces men’s colon cancer risk by 26%.

Limit Alcohol

Wine, beer, and spirits are all beverages that are not highly recommended for those who are focused on their colorectal health, as moderate amounts of alcohol (at most two servings) may increase colorectal cancer risk. Some data show a 7% increase in colorectal cancer risk for each 10 gram/day increase of alcohol intake, making an excellent case for skipping the booze.

Choose Whole Grains

Swapping out your white bread, corn flakes, and refined crackers with whole-grain alternatives can fuel your body with important nutrients, including fiber, which can possibly reduce your colorectal cancer risk.

Specifically, data shows a colorectal cancer risk reduction of 17% for each 90 gram/day increase of whole grains.

5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

  2. Vieira AR, Abar L, Chan DSM, et al. Foods and beverages and colorectal cancer risk: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies, an update of the evidence of the WCRF-AICR Continuous Update Project. Ann Oncol. 2017;28(8):1788-1802. doi:10.1093/annonc/mdx171

  3. USDA. Dietary guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025.

  4. Baena R, Salinas P. Diet and colorectal cancer. Maturitas. 2015;80(3):258-64. doi:10.1016/j.maturitas.2014.12.017

  5. Masrul M, Nindrea RD. Dietary fibre protective against colorectal cancer patients in Asia: a meta-analysis. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2019;7(10):1723-1727. doi:10.3889/oamjms.2019.265