Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in the U.S. according to Colorectal Cancer Facts and Figures.
During 2018, it is estimated that colorectal cancer will result in the death of 50,630 lives, ranking it as the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in our country. It is also predicted that in 2018 the U.S. will see 97,220 new diagnoses of colon cancer and 43,030 new cases of rectal cancer.
March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, making it a good time to remind everyone of how to reduce their risk of developing this deadly disease.
One good bit of news is that CRC has seen declining rates of incidence in people 50 and older, dropping by 32% since 2000. The reason for this encouraging trend is thought to be due to more people being screened for CRC, which can detect and remove precancerous polyps before they have advanced.
Unfortunately, CRC rates have steadily climbed in people younger than 50, increasing by 22% from 2000 to 2013. It is not completely understood for the reason behind this but factors thought to play a role include increasing rates of excess body weight, unhealthy food choices and patterns, and a sedentary lifestyle.
Preventing colorectal cancer
Research is now showing that up to 50% of colorectal cancers are preventable. If all people would make certain lifestyle changes to reduce their risk that would mean about 67,200 people each year would be spared developing this disease.
Here are six evidence-based steps to take reducing the risk of colorectal cancer:
1. Reach and stay at a healthy body weight and reduce belly fat
Excess body fat, including belly or abdominal fat, has been shown through research to increase the risk of CRC.
How to do this: Become a portion-size savvy person. Larger portion sizes should be devoted to at least half your plate filled with colorful vegetables while keeping calorie-packed foods like meat, cheese, and nuts limited to one-fourth of the plate. Desserts and snacks should be an occasional treat limited to two or three times a week in small portions.
2. Each day should include physical activity
Research has always shown the importance of being physically active on a daily basis. From doing housework, gardening, walking the dog, jogging, taking a brisk walk or bicycling, moderate physical activity of all kinds can help reduce CRC risk.
How to do this: If it’s been a while since you’ve been physically active, start off by moving 10 minutes today to walk. In the coming weeks, build up the amount of time by taking more activity breaks throughout the day or extending the 10 minutes to at least 30 minutes 5 days a week or more.
3. Boost your intake of fiber
This is an important step to take as eating a diet rich in plenty of high fiber foods lowers the risk of CRC. Women should aim for 25 grams of fiber per day while men should target 38 grams a day. For every 10 grams of fiber coming from foods daily — slightly less than a cup of beans — the risk of CRC is reduced by 10%.
How to do this: When planning a meal, fill at least two-thirds or more of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans and nuts and no more than one-third with animal proteins such as protein or lean red meat.
4. Reduce intake of red meat and avoid processed meat
Eating high amounts of red meat and even small amounts of processed meat can increase CRC. Consuming processed meat — hot dogs, bacon, sausage, and deli meats — ounce for ounce can increase the risk for CRC twice as much as consuming red meat.
How to do this: The best advice is to limit red meat consumption to no more than 18 ounces a week. This is roughly equivalent to five or six small (3-4 ounces) cooked portions of beef, lamb, or pork. It is highly advised to just avoid processed meats altogether. Try instead roasted chicken breast, hummus, or peanut butter for sandwiches.
5. Keep alcohol intake in moderation
More evidence is showing that overconsumption of alcohol can increase CRC in men and probably also increases the risk in women. The best advice is if you currently don’t drink, don’t start. For those who do, it is recommended to limit alcohol to no more than two standard drinks daily for men and no more than one for women.
How to do this: A standard drink is defined as 5 ounces of wine, a 12 oz. beer or 1.5 ounces of liquor.
6. Consume more garlic
If you like garlic, go ahead and enjoy it as research has suggested that a diet filled with relatively high amounts of garlic reduce the risk of CRC.
How to do this:
To get the most benefit from garlic, it is best to consume it raw. This means uncooked and not in a powder form either. Cooking garlic destroys garlic’s ability to make a phytochemical called allicin, which according to the American Institute for Cancer Research, can help protect against colorectal cancer.
However, if the thought of chewing on raw garlic sounds unappealing, chopping or crushing garlic activates allicin — let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before cooking to help retain most of its health -promoting properties.
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital. He is a medical contributor for the Fox News Channel’s Medical A-Team. Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pintrest, SamadiMD.com, davidsamadiwiki, davidsamadibio and Facebook
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