Lowering your risk for colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Canada.  Making healthy diet and lifestyle choices can help lower your risk. Read on to learn about the risk factors for colorectal cancer and the healthy choices you can make for cancer prevention.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a cancer that occurs in the colon (large intestine) or the rectum (the last part of the colon).

What are the risk factors for colorectal cancer?

The risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Having a family history of colorectal cancer
  • Being physically inactive
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating a diet high in red and processed meats
  • Eating a diet low in fibre
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking

How do I lower my risk of colorectal cancer?

To help lower your risk of colorectal cancer, follow these tips:

  • Eat less red and processed meats: Limit red meat like beef and pork to no more than one serving (75g or 2 ½ oz) per day. Eat very little, if any, processed meats (like deli meat) that are prepared by smoking, curing or with preservatives.  Learn more about including meat alternatives in your diet.
  • Eat foods high in fibre: Include more vegetables, fruit and whole grains in your diet. Don’t forget about eating more legumes like beans, peas and lentils. Learn about adding more fibre to your diet.
  • Be physically active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, like taking a brisk walk or riding a bike. Even 10 minutes at a time is beneficial. Limit inactivity like watching television or playing video games.  Take quick, short breaks throughout the day. Read about different tips you can try for getting active.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight: Try these weight control strategies.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink: If you drink alcohol, limit the amount to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink per day for women. Learn the amount in one drink here.
  • Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke: Smoking and being around people who smoke increases the risk for colorectal cancer. If you’re looking for help quitting, see Health Canada’s On the Road to Quitting program.

Do bowel cleanses help prevent colorectal cancer?

No.  There is no evidence that bowel cleanses are effective in lowering the risk of colorectal cancer. They may even be harmful.  Choose high fibre foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes to help keep your digestive system healthy.

Bottom line

You can help lower your risk of colorectal cancer by making healthy diet and lifestyle choices. If you have questions about healthy eating and cancer prevention, call EatRight Ontario at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.

Last Update – October 9, 2016

Mail Icon Phone Icon

If you have questions about what you've read here, or other questions about food, nutrition or healthy eating, click to email our Registered Dietitians or call 1-877-510-5102.