Diets High in Whole Grains and Low in Meat Decrease Risk for Colorectal Cancer

Research Highlight by Kurtis Chien

             Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among men and women in the United States; approximately 371 people are diagnosed per day. Of these cases, a substantial proportion could be prevented through lifestyle changes. An analysis of 99 papers covering a sample size of 29 million subjects concluded that simple factors such as diet and physical activity reflect heavily on the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. For example, diets heavy in red meats, which are defined by consumption of 500g per week, raise the chances of getting colorectal cancer. Processed meats, such as bacon, hot dogs, or sausages, were also deemed carcinogenic. Over-consumption of alcoholic beverages (2 or more serving sizes per day) put a person at risk. Finally, being overweight or obese or living a mostly sedentary lifestyle were found to be unfavorable factors.

            On the other side, certain foods and behaviors can reduce the probability of colorectal cancer. For example, eating 90g of whole grains or other fibrous foods every day could bring the risk down by 17 percent. An active lifestyle was also found to contribute to better colon health. Overall, nearly half of U.S. colorectal cases per year were directly attributable to lifestyle; that is, these cases could have been prevented with healthy diet and exercise. Perhaps it is intuitive to realize that healthy diet and lifestyle can prevent disease, but having the data to support such a hypothesis can be beneficial. The report provides evidence of the link between specific lifestyle choices and the development of colorectal cancer, and such information may help those at risk recognize their risk factors. At the very least, it can encourage people to make decisions that will ultimately better their lives. Dr. Edward L. Giovannucci, head author of the report, puts it like this: “Many of the ways to help prevent colorectal cancer are important for overall health” (American Institute for Cancer Research).

American Institute for Cancer Research. "Whole grains decrease colorectal cancer risk, processed meats increase the risk: Report analyzing the global research finds hot dogs and other processed meats increase risk of colorectal cancer, eating more whole grains and being physically active lowers risk" (Science Daily).

ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 September 2017. <>.