Diet for Colon Cancer Prevention

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Do you need one more reason to lose those extra pounds and start eating less and exercising? To ward off colon cancer!!! A new survey commissioned by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) indicates that Americans don’t realize that obesity increases cancer risk. Research presented in July at the (AICR)/World Cancer Research Fund International Research Conference estimates that being overweight (Body Mass Index (BMI) >25) and sedentary accounts for one-third of worldwide cases of colon cancer, as well as cancers of the breast, endometrium, kidney and esophagus.

Here are several dietary changes to reduce colon cancer – now the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States.

• Maintain a Healthful Weight (BMI<25). Avoiding weight gain is one of the most important things you can do to prevent cancer, including colon cancer. Most experts agree that combining exercise with a healthful diet is the best strategy in reducing colon cancer risk.
• Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. When it comes to produce, there is strong evidence showing the benefits of vegetables – especially leafy green vegetables (spinach, broccoli, lettuce and greens) – in reducing colon cancer risk.
• Eat more calcium-rich foods. In the March 2002 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researchers found that just 700 mg of calcium a day, from food or supplements, reduced the risk of colon cancer by 50%. Add two servings of calcium-rich or calcium-fortified foods to your diet daily.
• Limit meat (beef, lamb, pork) to no more than three ounces a day. Cook meat, poultry and fish at lower temperatures or marinate before grilling. Try replacing meat with a fatty fish such as salmon, or with beans and soyfoods. When you do eat meats, choose leaner cuts and use the 2/3 rule: Fill your plate with 2/3 plant foods and no more than 1/3 animal food. Check out “The New American Plate” by the AICR (
• Choose whole grains over refined carbohydrates (e.g., sugar, white rice, white flour – e.g., cakes, piecrusts, bread). Dr. Edward Giovannucci of Harvard University spoke last year at the AICR 11th Annual Research Conference on Diet, Nutrition and Cancer in Washington, D.C. He suggested that chronic elevations of insulin/insulin growth factors (IGFs) increase colon cancer risk. Eating high-sugar/refined-carbohydrate foods triggers excessive insulin/IGF production which can increase the growth of cancer cells in the colon. Eating more whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables will automatically lower your refined carbohydrate intake.
• Limit alcohol consumption (no more than one serving of alcohol per day for women and two servings for men). Studies suggest that alcohol is a “probable” risk for colon cancer. If you do drink, consider supplementing your diet with 400 mcg of folic acid per day (a multivitamin contains this amount).

Other Lifestyle Factors to Help Lower Risk of Colon Cancer
• Exercise. According to the American Cancer Society, regular exercise can reduce the risk of colon cancer by 50%. To reduce colon cancer risk, the recommendation is at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day for at least five days a week. Some experts are recommending 45 to 60 minutes!
• Quit smoking. The carcinogenic compounds in tobacco may increase the risk of colon cancer.
• Consider aspirin therapy. Dartmouth researchers found that men taking 81 mg of aspirin daily may have up to a 50% lower risk of colon cancer. Aspirin appears to inhibit the growth of colon polyps, which are precursors to colon cancer. Speak to your doctor before trying

Submitted by Sandy Sotnick, MS, RD.

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