Colorectal cancers – cancers of the colon and rectum – are the third most common cancer among men and women in the United States, not counting skin cancer.  The American Cancer Society reports that a person’s lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is approximately 1 in 19.  Fortunately, the death rate associated with the disease has been decreasing over the last 20 years, primarily due to improved screening and treatment methods.  In fact, today in the United States, there are more than 1 million colorectal cancer survivors.


Some risk factors for colorectal cancer cannot be changed.  These include age; a personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps; a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease; and family history of colorectal cancer.  Other risk factors can be controlled, however.  These include physical inactivity; particular diets; being very overweight; having type 2 diabetes; smoking; and heavy use of alcohol.


Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lower your risk for developing the disease.  The American Cancer Society makes the following recommendations for lowering risk for colorectal cancers by managing controllable risk factors:

  • Choose foods and beverages in amount s that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of healthy foods every day.
  • Choose whole grains rather than processed grains.
  • Limit intake of processed and red meats.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol intake.
  • Take part in at least 20 minutes, preferably 45 to 60 minutes, of physical activity on 5 or more days of the week.
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight throughout life by balancing food intake with physical activity.