Eat Wisely and Stay Active for a Healthy Colon

Last updated: Mar 04, 2013

Approximately 1 in 20 people
will get colorectal cancer.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
and the perfect time
to make sure you’re up to date
with your colon screening

It’s also a good time to make positive changes
to your diet and exercise habits
to decrease your risk of colorectal cancer.

These 6 tips can help lower your risk of colorectal cancer and protect your overall health:

  • Get Moving
    According to the National Cancer Society, more than 50 scientific research studies found that physically active people have up to 40% less risk of colon cancer compared with sedentary people. The reason for the reduced risk, suggests the National Cancer Institute, is likely because physical activity lessens the amount of time potential carcinogens stay in the colon. In addition, activity boosts the immune system, which appears to have a significant role in fighting cancer1
    • For these reasons, Summit Medical Group recommends getting thirty to 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity such as brisk walking, hiking, jogging, running, cycling, and swimming every day
  • Eat Less Red and Processed Meats 
    Red meat such as beef, lamb, pork, bacon, and deli meats contain nitrates, preservatives, and other compounds that can damage the lining of the intestinal tract and promote cancer. Eating red meat that has been grilled or fried at high temperatures also can expose you to cancer-causing compounds
    • For these reasons, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recommends limiting red meat to 18 or fewer ounces per week2
      • Substitute fresh sliced turkey and chicken for processed, cured, or salted lunch meats and sausages
      • Grill or broil fish or skinless chicken and turkey
      • Use ground white turkey instead of hamburger in casseroles
      • Enjoy a vegetarian meal at least once each week
      • Eat less red meat overall
  • Limit Alcohol to No More Than 2 Drinks Per Day for Men and 1 Drink Per Day for Women
    Alcohol can increase risk for mouth, throat, liver, breast, and colon cancer because bacteria in the colon and rectum convert the ethanol in alcohol into acetaldehyde, a chemical that causes cancer.3 Alcohol also reduces the body’s ability to absorb folate, a vitamin that helps protect against cancer4
    • One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor
  • Eat More Fiber
    Whole grains such as wheat, oats, and barley contain soluble fiber that helps move food quickly through the digestive system, lessening the time potential carcinogens stay in the colon. In addition, whole grains also contain a wide variety of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that might help protect against cancer. A 2011 review of 25 research studies published in the British Medical Journal found that 3 or more three servings of whole grains each day can decrease risk of colorectal cancer by 20%
    • Choose a breakfast cereal such as All Bran or Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets that contain at least 5 grams of fiber per serving 
    • Substitute whole grains such as brown rice and whole grain pasta for refined grains such as white rice and white pasta
    • Ensure the term whole in the first ingredient in breads and crackers
  • Eat Plenty of Vegetables and Fruits
    The American Cancer Society recommends eating at least 2 1/2 cups a day of varied vegetables and fruits to decrease risk of colorectal cancer6
    • Choose different colored vegetables and fruits such as red tomatoes, green peppers, yellow squash, purple eggplant, or white mushrooms to ensure variety
    • Eat cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower that contain colon-healthy substances
    • Forage for fresh fruit or raw vegetables for a colon-healthy snack
    • Top your sandwiches with lettuce, sliced cucumbers, red peppers, tomatoes, and onions
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight
    National Cancer Institute Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) data suggest that being overweight and obese increases risk for colon cancer8


If you'd like to learn more
about how you can help reduce your risk of colon cancer,
our registered dietitians can help!

Call us today
at 908-277-8731.


To schedule your colorectal screening,
call Summit Medical Group Gastroenterology
at 908-277-8940.





1. National Cancer Institute. FactSheet: physical activity and cancer.  Accessed March 4, 2013.
2. American Institute for Cancer Research. Red and processed meats: the cancer connection. Accessed March 4, 2013.
3. American Cancer Society. Limit alcohol to lower cancer risk. Accessed March 4, 2013.
4. American Cancer Society. Alcohol use and cancer. Accessed March 4, 2013.
5. Aune D, Chan DSM, Lau R, Vieira R et al. Dietary fiber, whole grains, and risk of colorectal cancer: systematic review and dose-response meta analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 2011;343:d6617. Accessed March 4, 2013.
6. American Cancer Society. Fruits and vegetables: do you get enough? Accessed March 4, 2013.
7. American Institute for Cancer Research. AICR's foods that fight cancer: broccoli and cruciferous vegetables. Accessed March 4, 2013. 
8. National Cancer Institute. FactSheet: obesity and cancer. Accessed March 4, 2013.