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7 Ways to Reduce the Risks for Colorectal Cancer


7 Ways to Reduce the Risks for Colorectal Cancer

Stony Brook University Cancer Center Dietitian Dishes Ideas for Fighting this Deadly Disease


STONY BROOK, NY, MARCH 11, 2015 – Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States for men and women combined. And this year alone, it is expected to cause nearly 50,000 deaths.

Jennifer Fitzgibbon

Death rates from colorectal cancer have been dropping for more than 20 years and there are a number of likely reasons.  For one, polyps are being found earlier from screening and are being removed before they can develop into a cancer. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last several years. Proper nutrition and diet are important in helping to reduce risk factors for many diseases including colorectal cancer. In the fight against this disease, guidelines suggest eating less unhealthy fat, eating healthier fats like omega threes and nuts, getting more nutrients from foods that we eat, optimizing your body mass index (BMI) and increasing physical activity. Jennifer Fitzgibbon, Registered Oncology Dietitian, Stony Brook University Cancer Center, shares some ideas on how to eat healthy and help reduce risk factors for colorectal cancer.  

1. Increase Your Curcumin Intake: Curcumin, a natural pigment responsible for turmeric’s intense yellow color, has been praised in Asia for years for its healing properties. Recently, according to the American Cancer Society, curcumin has received a great deal of attention as researchers are studying the spice to learn about its proposed anti-inflammatory effects.

2. Consume Foods That Deliver Ellagic Acid: One of the developmental pathways of colorectal cancer is chronic inflammation of the bowel. Some research on ellagic acid suggests a reduction in the inflammatory process. Ellagic acid (EA) is a naturally occurring phenolic constituent that is contained in ellagitannins in grapes, nuts, strawberries, black currents, raspberries, green tea, and pomegranates. The American Institute of Cancer Research promotes a balanced diet that includes 5 or more servings a day of fruits and vegetables. They claim it is more effective in reducing cancer risk than eating one particular food in large amounts.
3. Eat Plenty of Foods That Provide Indoles: Cruciferous vegetables such as cabbage, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts have long been suggested for their ability to help combat cancer, including colon cancer. “When these vegetables are chopped, crushed, or chewed, the natural compounds such as indoles are released,” said Fitzgibbon. “Indoles have been examined for their anti-cancer effects including boosting the detoxification of carcinogens and providing antioxidant protection.”

4. Get Enough Carotenoids: “Carotenoids are phytochemicals that give many fruits and vegetables — including kale, spinach, collard greens, carrots, cantaloupe, and sweet potato— their green, orange, and yellow colors,” says Fitzgibbon. The most common carotenoids in the Western diet include beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Upon review of the research, it’s been suggested that incorporating these foods into the diet may help reduce the risk of developing colon cancer.

5. Avoid Foods That Contain Nitrates: According to the Center for Disease Control, nitrates are naturally occurring substances that are present in the soil, air surface water, ground water and plant, including some vegetables. Food manufacturers also use nitrates to give certain meat products — such as jerkies, bacon, sausages, and lunch meat — an intense red color. When these foods are consumed, the body may convert the nitrates into nitrites, which can then form into nitrosamines. “Studies have shown nitrosamines to be carcinogenic,” says Fitzgibbon. “Studies show no link between a high consumption of nitrate-containing vegetables and cancer, but link people who frequently eat nitrate-containing meat products to a higher risk of cancer.”

6. Optimize Vitamin D Intake: Vitamin D helps the body use calcium and phosphorus to make strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D is attained primarily through sun exposure, but can also found in some foods like fatty fish, fish liver oil, eggs, and milk and dietary supplements. “Some studies suggest that the higher intakes of vitamin D or higher levels of vitamin D in the blood are associated with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer,” says Fitzgibbon.

7. Don’t Char or Burn Meat, Poultry or Fish. Charring, burning or grilling meat, poultry and fish over high temperatures causes heterocyclic amines (HCAs) to form. “According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, these HCAs may cause damaging effects, possibly raising the risk for stomach and colorectal cancers,” explains Fitzgibbon. To avoid creating these HCAs, think about lowering the temperatures on your grill, cleaning the grill after each use which will prevent harmful chemicals from building up, using a marinade which can reduce HCA formation and trimming the fat off the meat which will limit the amount of smoke that coats your food.


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