Do you, or do you know someone with colorectal cancer? Or maybe you know someone with bowel or rectal cancer? It’s a very common type of cancer with around 40,000 new cases diagnosed each year in the UK – that means that about 1 in 20 of us will develop it in our lifetime.[1]

In the US, according to the American Cancer Society, it’s the third most common cancer among men and women, with, once again, 1 in 20 people developing it in his or her lifetime.[2]

Did you know that 54% of bowel cancer cases each year in the UK are linked to major lifestyle and other risk factors? That means we have a chance of being able to influence whether we develop it or not.[3]

As this is Colorectal Cancer awareness month, I’m taking a look at what it is, what the risk factors are, and how a plant-based diet can help reduce your risk of developing it.

Let’s take a look at what colorectal cancer is

Also known as colon cancer, rectal cancer or bowel cancer depending on where it starts, Colon cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the colon.[4] According to the National Cancer Institute.

Some of the risk factors for developing colorectal cancer include

Diet – what you eat can affect your chances of developing colorectal cancer. 148,610 adults took part in the Cancer Prevention Study. The group with the highest red meat intake had approximately 30-40% higher colon cancer risk and the group with the highest processed meat intake had approximately 50% higher colon cancer risk compared to those with lower intakes. [5]

Eating eggs has been shown to increase your risk for colorectal cancer and bladder cancer.

The World Health Organization analysed data from thirty-four countries and determined that eating eggs was significantly correlated with death from colon and rectal cancers in both men and women.[6]

A study conducted in Argentina found that people who consumed approximately one and a half eggs per week had nearly five times more colorectal cancer risk than individuals consuming fewer than eleven eggs per year.[7]

Moderate egg consumption also tripled the risk of developing bladder cancer, as determined by a study of 130 newly diagnosed bladder cancer patients published in the journal International Urology and Nephrology.[8]

According to the Colon Cancer Alliance[9] other risk factors include:

Age – more than 90 percent of people with colon cancer are diagnosed after the age of 50. The average age is 72.

Colon polyps – these are growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. Most are not cancerous, but some can become cancer.

Family history of colon cancerClose relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, or children) of a person with a history of colon cancer are somewhat more likely to develop this disease themselves, especially if the relative had the cancer at a young age. If many close relatives have a history of colon cancer, the risk is even greater.”

Personal history of cancer – if you’ve already had colon cancer you may develop it a second time

If you’ve had ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease you’re at increased risk of developing colon cancer

Being overweight raises the risk of colon cancer in both men and women, and more in men. An estimated 13% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to overweight or obesity.[10]

Smoking – bowel cancer risk is 17-21% higher in current cigarette smokers compared with never-smokers, and is 17-25% higher in former cigarette smokers compared with never smokers[11]

African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups in the U.S

Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) may have a higher rate of colon cancer

Consuming alcohol – An estimated 11% of bowel cancer cases in the UK are linked to alcohol consumption and is 21% higher in people who drink around 1.5-6 UK alcohol units per day and is 52% higher in those who consume around 6 units or more per day, compared with non-/occasional drinkers[12]

How To Reduce Your Risk Of Colorectal Cancer [13]

There are simple and straightforward lifestyle actions that you can take to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. These include:

Cutting down on the amount of red and processed meat products you eat. Processed meat is so closely linked to colorectal cancer that no amount is safe for consumption

– Eating more fruits, vegetables, and high-fibre foods

– Getting screened early, especially if there is a family history of colon cancer

– Getting more exercise!

– Stopping smoking. If you’re a long-term smoker you’re more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colorectal cancer

– Limiting your alcohol intake. Colorectal cancer has been linked to heavy use of alcohol

– Losing weight.

Don’t forget to fill up on fibre!

The American Institute for Cancer Research states:

Plant foods rich in dietary fiber help protect us against cancer, specifically colorectal cancer, as well as other chronic diseases.

As we’ve seen, red and processed meat are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Two reasons for this is that meat has no fibre and it doesn’t have other nutrients that have a protective effect against cancer.

Processed meats have been preserved with additives that are potentially cancer-causing. To read more, click here.

Fibre, which is only found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, is brilliant at helping to push food through our digestive system and protects the lining of our colon. When you think about it, the less time there is for food to hang around in our colon the better, as there’s less time for cancer-causing compounds to take effect.[14]

Fibre is also great at helping to regulate our weight as it’s slow to digest and helps us to feel fuller for longer.[15] It can also prevent chronic disease including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other types of cancer.[16]

A recent study showed that people who ate the most fibre had a 28 per cent lower risk for developing polyps that lead to cancer.

I think fibre is an unsung hero. It can help our bodies in many ways. So the next time your’e wondering what to snack on, or what to have for one of your meals, stick to plant-based foods.

You’re body will thank you every single day for the commitment you’ve made to it!

To read more on fibre and how much we need to eat each day, click here.

Up above, I shared with you How To Reduce Your Risk Of Colorectal Cancer. If you found this post helpful, please take a moment to SHARE this post with people you think will find it valuable. You can use the buttons to share this post with your social networks. Hopefully you will and so I’ll give you a big THANK YOU in anticipation.



[3] Source:


[5] Cancer Survivors Guide

[6] Zhang J, Zhao Z, Berkel HJ. Egg consumption and mortality from colon and rectal cancers: an ecological study. Nutr Cancer. 2003;46(2):158-165.

[7] Iscovich JM, L’Abbe KA, Castelleto R. Colon can- cer in Argentina. I: risk from intake of dietary items. Int J Cancer. 1992;51(6):851-857.

[8] Radosavljevic V, Jankovic S, Marinkovic J, Dokic M. Diet and bladder cancer: a case-control study. Int Urol Nephrol. 2005;37(2):283-289.








[16] Colon Cancer Statistics.  Colon Cancer Alliance. Accessed February 10, 2015.

Prevention and Screening. Colon Cancer Alliance. February 10, 2015.

Kim E, Coelho D, Blachier F. Review of the association between meat consumption and risk of colorectal cancer. Nutr Res. 2013;33:983-994.

McCullough ML, Gapstur SM, Shah R, Jacobs EJ, Campbell PT. Association between red and processed meat intake and mortality among colorectal cancer survivors. J Clin Onc. 2013;31:2773-2782.

Grooms KN, Ommerborn MJ, Pham DQ, Djousse L, Clark CR. Dietary fiber intake and cardiometabolic risks among US adults, NHANES 1999-2010. AM J Med. 2013;126:1059-1067.

Get the Facts on Fiber. American Institute for Cancer Research. Accessed February 10, 2015.

Ben Q, Sun Y, Chai R, Qian A, Xu B, Yuan Y. Dietary fiber intake reduces risk of colorectal adenoma: a meta-analysis. Gastroenterology. 2014;146:689-699.

Renehan AG, Flood A, Adams KF, et al. Body mass index at different adults ages, weight change, and colorectal cancer risk in the National Institutes of Health-AARP cohort. Am J Epidemiol. 2012;176:1130-1140.

Renehan AG, Tyson M, Egger M, et al. Body-mass index and incidence of cancer: a systematic review and  meta-analysis of prospective observational studies. Lancet. 2008;37:569-578.

Yang Y, Zhao LG, Wu QJ, Ma X, Xiang YB. Association between dietary fiber and lower risk of all-cause mortality: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies. Am J Epidemiol. 2015;181:83-91.

Otles S, Ozgoz S.Health effects of dietary fiber. Acta sci Pol Technol Aliment. 2014;13:191-202.