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Processed Meats Increase Colon Cancer Risk But These Things Reduce Risk


Recent studies reveal what factors increase and decrease the risk of colon cancer.

Eating red meat and processed meat raises the likelihood, but eating whole grains, exercising and taking probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that keep the gut healthy, are protective against the disease. Omega-3s have even been found to help prevent colorectal cancer.

Whole Grains Decrease Risk of Colon Cancer

According to a new report, a whopping 47 percent of colorectal cancer cases could be prevented with lifestyle changes. It found the daily consumption of whole grains, such as brown rice or 100-percent whole grain bread, reduce colorectal cancer risk. In addition, it observed that the greater the consumption, the lower the likelihood.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers, yet this report demonstrates there is a lot people can do to dramatically lower their risk,” said Edward L. Giovannucci, MD, ScD, lead author of the report and professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. “The findings from this comprehensive report are robust and clear: Diet and lifestyle have a major role in colorectal cancer.”

The report also stated that beef and pork, along with processed meats like hot dogs and bacon raise the likelihood. Other risk factors it listed include drinking two or more alcoholic drinks per day and being overweight.

In contrast, the report uncovered strong evidence that exercising regularly can help reduce colon cancer risk. It also found some protection from eating fish as well as foods containing vitamin C such as oranges and spinach.

“Replacing some of your refined grains with whole grains and eating mostly plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables and beans, will give you a diet packed with cancer-protective compounds and help you manage your weight, which is so important to lower risk,” said Alice Bender, MS, RDN, AICR Director of Nutrition Programs.

The report’s conclusions were based on the analysis of 99 studies that contained data on 29 million people. Scientists at the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund conducted the review.

Probiotics May Help Prevent Colon Cancer

A study published in the American Journal of Pathology found treating mice with a certain strain of probiotics decreased the size and frequency of colorectal tumors compared to a control group. At the beginning of the 15-week intervention, the mice were given a single dose of an inflammatory chemical and a carcinogen. The mice were daily fed a histamine-producing strain of Lactobacillus reuteri. Examination of the rodents at the study’s conclusion revealed the benefits.

Aside from protection from tumors, the probiotic also produced other benefits. These included lower numbers of spherical immature myeloid cells from the carcinogen, reduced colonic glucose uptake and decreased inflammation caused by the two chemicals.

Probiotics Change Gut Bacterial Composition of Colon Cancer Patients

In another study published in BMJ Open Gastroenterology, researchers discovered probiotics improved the gut microbiome of patients with colon cancer. When the team first examined the microbial composition of intestinal biopsies, they saw the bacterial strains in the tumors and surrounding tissues of colon cancer patients differed from the bacterial strains in the gut of healthy individuals. After the microbial composition was changed through probiotic treatment, the number of bacteria that produced butyric acid increased. Research shows this acid reduces inflammation and suppresses the growth of cancer cells in the colon.

One probiotic strain used in the study, Lactobacillus acidophilus NCFM, has been shown to have properties that fight colon cancer; and another probiotic strain used, Bifidobacterium lactis Bl-04, has anti-inflammatory properties. The results build on the principle that “friendly” or beneficial bacteria in the gut boost immunity and help protect against toxins that can cause disease.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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