Exercise, diet, and lifestyle choices are key factors in preventing colon cancer, according to the results of a study published in the International Journal of Cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The disease develops in the large intestine, which includes the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) and the rectum (the last several inches).
Evidence continues to mount indicating that a patient’s lifestyle habits and diet may significantly decrease the risk of certain types of cancers. Researchers from Australia conducted an analysis of 103 studies that evaluated colorectal cancer risk factors and were conducted between 1996 and 2008. The purpose of the review was to evaluate the strength of the associations for risk factors for colorectal cancer.
The results of the analysis indicated that although several lifestyle factors increase the risk of colorectal cancer, alcohol poses the most significant risk. Individuals who consume one or more alcoholic beverage per day have a 60% higher risk of developing colon cancer than individuals who are light or non-drinkers.
In addition, the researchers found that smoking, obesity, diabetes, and high intake of red and processed meats were each associated with a 20% higher risk of colorectal cancer. Exercise provided a protective benefit against colorectal cancer.
The takeaway message is clear: colorectal cancer is largely a disease of lifestyle. Individuals can protect themselves from developing the disease by modifying lifestyle habits such as alcohol consumption and smoking. By staying active, avoiding obesity, and choosing more healthful foods, individuals can decrease their risk of developing colorectal cancer.
 Huxley RR, Ansary-Moghaddam A, Clifton P, et al. The impact of dietary and lifestyle risk factors on risk of colorectal cancer: A quantitative overview of the epidemiological evidence. International Journal of Cancer. 2009; 125:171-180.