Slash your colon cancer risk in six simple steps

Sometimes I read something that seems like it was delivered straight from Captain Obvious. This week’s selection: A recent study concluded that healthy behaviors lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

And for their next study, these researchers will prove the earth is round.

But all snark aside, this study does provide some good reminders. So let’s take a look at the details.

The researchers studied over 347,000 people, from 10 countries, over 12 years. (To which I have to say—really?! It took 12 years to conclude that the healthier you live, the lower your cancer risk?!)

They found six behaviors lower the risk for colorectal cancer:

1) healthy weight

2) low abdominal fat

3) participating in regular physical activity

4) not smoking

5) limiting alcohol

6) a good diet (high in fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds, foods rich in fiber, and low amounts of red and processed meat).

People who practiced all six of these healthy behaviors slashed their risk of developing colorectal cancer by more than a third (a whopping 37 percent, to be exact).

And while a six-item “to do” list might seem like a lot, keep in mind that many of these behaviors go hand in hand. For example, if you’re following a healthy diet and exercising regularly, you’ll automatically reach a healthy weight and reduce your abdominal fat. So, really, it’s only four things.

Though I would add one more to the list: Keep your gut healthy.

A recent study showed that subjects with colon cancer have lower levels of key bacterial strains in their gut, including Clostridia (which is key for dietary fiber fermentation) as well as butyrate, a metabolite that prevents inflammation and cancer development in the colon. At the same time, cancer patients had higher levels of Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas. These bacteria are both linked to higher levels of inflammation in the mouth and GI tract.

And, as I’ve said many times before, the best way to regulate your gut bacteria—building up the good stuff and eliminating the bad—is to take a high-quality probiotic (one with multiple strains of beneficial bacteria).


Combined impact of healthy lifestyle factors on colorectal cancer: a large European cohort study.” BMC Medicine 2014; 12 (1): 168

“Bowel cancer risk reduced by adopting multiple healthy behaviors.” ScienceDaily, 10/10/14 (

“Human Gut Microbiome and Risk for Colorectal Cancer,” J Natl Cancer Inst 2013; 105(24): 1,907-1,911