Susannah is a senior scientist at World Cancer Research Fund. Follow her on Twitter @SusieCBrown.
Colorectal cancer (also known as bowel cancer) may be one of the world’s most common cancers, but our new report, which analysed 99 studies worldwide, confirms that it is also one of the most preventable cancers and there are things that can be done to help reduce the risk.
Our report found, for the first time, that eating three servings (a total of 90g) of wholegrains a day, such as brown rice or wholemeal bread, reduces the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 per cent.
One of the ways wholegrains are thought to reduce cancer risk is by reducing the time potential carcinogens are in contact with the cells lining the bowel by speeding up their transit time through the bowel.
The report also confirmed that the following increase colorectal cancer risk:
- Eating processed meat, such as bacon or salami
- Eating too much red meat (over 500g of cooked meat a week), such as beef or pork
- Drinking two or more alcoholic drinks a day, such as two glasses of wine or two measures of spirit
- Being overweight or obese
We also found that being physically active decreases the risk of colon cancer. This emphasises the importance of people fitting more physical activity into their daily routine, such as cycling to work or regularly taking the stairs.
With colorectal cancer rates expected to rise worldwide, it is vital that people are aware that there are simple things they can do to help prevent the disease.
Swapping a portion of processed meat for a piece of fish or opting for wholegrain rice instead of white rice are just a few examples of how people can work towards reducing their colorectal cancer risk.
Maintaining a healthy weight is not only important for preventing colorectal cancer, but also for reducing the risk of many other chronic diseases, including 10 other common cancers.
Colorectal cancer may be common, but we do have strong evidence that by making healthy lifestyle changes, we can significantly decrease the risk.