Colon and Rectal Cancer Prevention
Peer Review Status: Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cancer Information Service
First Published: March 2004
Last Revised: March 2004
Doctors cant always explain why one person gets cancer and another does not. Scientists have studied general patterns of cancer to learn what things around us and what things we do in our lives may increase our chance of developing cancer. Colorectal cancer can sometimes be associated with known risk factors. We can change many of the risk factors. Some risk factors, such as heredity, cannot be changed. The National Cancer Institute has several recommendations.
- Diet and lifestyle: Diet appears to be associated with colorectal cancer risk.
- A diet low in fat and rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of colon cancer
- There is evidence that smoking cigarettes may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- A diet high in saturated fat combined with a sedentary lifestyle may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs: Some studies have shown that the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) may be associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Because of their side effects, the use of these drugs should be discussed with a doctor.
- Polyp Removal: The removal of polyps in the colon may be associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
- Female Hormone Use: Postmenopausal female hormone use is associated with a reduced risk of colon cancer, but not rectal cancer. The use of this drug should be discussed with your doctor, as it is not recommended that estrogen be taken just for colon cancer prevention.
There are other research findings on prevention of colon and rectal cancer.
- Folic aciddata published in 1999 found that folic acid seemed to have a protective effect for colon cancer among a large number of nurses in the study. It found that 400 micrograms a day from food and/or a multivitamin may be of benefit in colon cancer prevention.
- Calciumanimal studies have found that a lack of calcium leads to excessive cell growth in the colon. It is not clear if calcium has a cancer preventive benefit for humans. Calcium is important to the body in other ways. Everyone should get enough calcium in their diet. Adults should have 1000 micrograms. After menopause, females should have 1500 micrograms of calcium a day.
- Sugary foodsa recent study found that women who consume a lot of foods that rapidly boost the blood sugar are three times more likely to develop colorectal cancer, than women who consume a diet low in sugar and starch. It is felt the sugar load may increase the risk by affecting insulin and insulin-like growth factors or through various inflammatory effects.