How eating the right foods can reduce your colorectal cancer risk

There can be a lot of noise out there about what you can do to reduce your risk of cancer—and it can be tough to sort through it all! Since March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we’ve done the hard work for you and put together the top tips to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

Getting your regular colorectal cancer screening done beginning at age 45 is the most effective way to lower your risk, but there are also other steps that you can take to stay healthy. When it comes to colorectal cancer, one of the areas we know the most about is the role of what you eat or drink.

The link between colorectal cancer and certain dietary choices is one of the best studied and well-established areas of research in cancer prevention. Studies show a strong link between colorectal cancer and diets high in red and processed meats, as well as alcohol.

Red meats include beef, pork (technically NOT the other “white meat”) and lamb and can increase your risk of cancer due to the presence of substances that either damage cells directly or stimulate the production of carcinogens (also known as cancerous compounds) in the body. Processed meats include bacon, hot dogs and deli meats (yes, that means your beloved charcuterie spread) and also increase colorectal cancer risk by producing carcinogens.

ALSO READ | 5 ways to make your charcuterie board healthier

If you eat red meat, the American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting the amount you eat to no more than 18 ounces/week, or about the size of two softballs. You should avoid processed meats altogether, as regularly eating even small amounts can increase your colorectal cancer risk. To get the protein and nutrient content you need, try eating fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products instead. Research also shows that diets high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains are linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer. Try to get in at least five servings of a variety of non-starchy vegetables and fruits throughout the day.

It’s best not to grill meats to avoid the production of carcinogens when cooking at high temperatures, particularly over open flame. Choose other cooking methods like baking or if you do grill meats, flip your food frequently to shorten the exposure.

Research also shows alcohol increases your colorectal cancer risk, and the more that you drink, the greater your risk. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend that if adults of legal drinking age choose to drink, that they limit their intake to no more than one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of regular beer, five ounces of wine, or one and a half ounces of liquor. Avoiding alcohol completely is best when it comes to reducing your risk of cancer.

Taking these steps can reduce your colorectal cancer risk and improve your overall health. To learn more about reducing your risk of colorectal cancer, visit