Diet and Colon Cancer Risk

Research shows that eating a high intake of whole grains can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer.

Diet and Colon Cancer Risk

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Diet, physical activity and weight are risk factors for the disease, so lifestyle changes can significantly decrease colon cancer risk.

Eating red meat and processed meat can be highly inflammatory and are linked to a greater risk of colon cancer. A new study by Nordic researchers published in Nutrition Reviews reinforces that a plant-based diet is more globally sustainable and can help prevent chronic disease.

“Both scientists and the public seem to have missed the yet untapped potential that grains can contribute towards a more sustainable food system and a healthier population,” said Professor Rikard Landberg from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. “Even small changes in dietary patterns could make a large difference both to environment and health and grains could represent one of these possibilities” (Medical Xpress).

What is a Whole Grain?

A 2017 study found that eating approximately 90 grams, or three servings, of whole grains per day reduces the risk of colon cancer by 17 percent. But what is a whole grain?

All grains are either whole grains or refined grains. Refined grains have some or all of the bran layers removed during processing, which reduces the fiber and the micronutrients. Whole grains are made from intact seeds that include three parts:

  • Bran: the outer skin of the seed
  • Endosperm: provides nutrition to the germ
  • Germ: the embryo, which can germinate into a new plant

A high-fiber diet is essential for colon cancer prevention because fiber increases stool bulk, dilutes carcinogens in the stool and decreases the transit time of digested food in the intestines (NCBI).

How to Add More Whole Grains to Your Meals

You can make small, daily changes to your meals to add more whole grains to your diet.

Breakfast—Start your day with oatmeal, a high-fiber whole grain, and top it with almonds, chia seeds, ground flax seeds and dried fruit.

Lunch—Buy bread made with 100 percent whole wheat flour for making sandwiches.

Dinner—Choose brown rice instead of white rice, and try to eat different whole grains such as barley, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and bulger.

Schedule a Colonoscopy to Prevent Colon Cancer

Eating more whole grains can help prevent colon cancer, but the best way to lower your risk is to get a colon cancer screening. A colonoscopy is the gold standard for colon screening because your doctor can view your entire colon and remove any polyps or abnormal tissue during the exam.

The American Cancer Society now recommends that all adults at average risk for colon cancer begin screening at age 45 instead of 50. However, some individuals at high risk may need to get screened earlier. Call your gastroenterologist today and start your year off right with a preventive screening.