It has been stressed that screening is the best way to detect early-stage colorectal cancer and precancerous conditions, but aside from that, what can you do to lower your risk of getting the disease? The key is maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Here are some factors that impact the chances of an individual getting colon cancer:

Alcohol Intake

Studies have suggested a significant association between excessive alcohol intake and colon cancer. There is evidence that high levels of alcohol consumption are correlated with larger precancerous polyps. Researchers have also found evidence that colon cancer patients who had a history of consuming an average of four or more alcoholic drinks a day had a higher rate of mortality than nondrinkers.


An extensive nationwide study has shown that among colon cancer patients who are smokers, current smokers have the highest mortality rate, non-smokers have the lowest rate, and former smokers’ mortality rate is intermediate. Smoking has also been correlated with the recurrence of polyps following surgical removal. In comparison to people who have never smoked, those who smoke more than a pack of cigarettes a day have upwards of a 50% higher risk of developing colon cancer.


Obesity, or the presence of a high (and unhealthy) percentage of body fat, is associated with the occurrence of many kinds of cancers, including colorectal cancer. Among men especially, a high BMI (body mass index) has been connected to a higher rate of colon cancer. Abdominal obesity shows the highest association with colon cancer risk.


One factor that distinguishes populations with high rates of colorectal cancer from those with low rates is the quality and quantity of dietary intake. Aside from simply eating more, it has been found that high-incidence populations tend to consume more carbohydrates, high-glycemic foods, and higher amounts of unsaturated animal fats. This kind of diet has also been associated with higher rates of recurrence. Suggested courses of diet modification include:

Eating less red meat- more than one serving of red meat a day has been shown to increase risk.
When you do eat high-calorie foods, have smaller portions.
Eat more brightly-colored vegetables, legumes, herbs and spices.
Limit your intake of red meat and high calorie foods like potatoes, ice cream and sugary baked goods.
Increase your intake of meats like fish and poultry.

Physical Activity

Pursuing a less sedentary lifestyle not only helps in the prevention of colon cancer, it also influences how an individual who does get the disease will fare after treatment. Obviously, exercise helps to combat obesity, but it also contributes to moderating the amount of hormones in the body. High levels of certain hormones have been tied to higher rates of colon cancer. Colon cancer patients who exercised regularly have higher rates of survival. Colon cancer patients should consult with their doctors to determine what course of exercise to pursue, and whether their level of health will allow exercise.

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