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Global Network

Colorectal Cancer

Learn About Colorectal Cancer

Doctor Visit


The science is clear: Small choices about what we eat and how much we move — choices each one of us makes every day — could prevent half of the cases of colorectal cancer that occur in the US every year.

This means that if all Americans eat healthier diets, moved more and stayed lean, nearly 67,200 cases of colorectal cancer every year would never happen.


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 Weight: As you gain body fat, your risk for colorectal cancer increases.

Alcohol: Risk for colorectal cancer increases as alcohol intake increases.

Inactivity: Regular physical activity protects against colorectal cancer, but a sedentary lifestyle increases your risk. Age: The older you are, the greater your risk.

Red Meat: Diets high in beef, pork and lamb increase colorectal cancer risk, which is why AICR recommends limiting red meat to 18 ounces (cooked) per week.

Processed Meats: Regular intake of even small amounts of cold cuts, bacon, sausage and hot dogs have been shown to increase colorectal cancer risk, which is why AICR recommends avoiding these foods.


Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the US. Nearly 134,490 new cases of colorectal cancer occur annually. Just over half — nearly 70,820 — occur in men, while just over 63,670 occur in women.

Colorectal cancer is the third deadliest cancer in the US, killing almost 49,700 Americans every year.

As obesity rates have increased, the number of colorectal cancer cases has increased as well.



Colorectal pervention could be 50%

A Menu for
Colorectal Cancer Prevention

New American Plate

Learn about AICR’s simple, visual, award-winning approach to meal planning that helps you lower your cancer risk – and your weight.

Foods That Fight CancerTM

AICR’s new web resource keeps you up-to-date about the latest research on foods that belong at the center of your New American Plate.

To lower your risk for colorectal cancer, make everyday choices that will help you stay at or get to your healthy weight. This is the most important step you can take to help prevent this particular kind of cancer.

Find your "healthy weight" using the AICR Body Mass Index (BMI) calculator.

Moving more and eating well will help you achieve your healthy weight.

Avoiding alcohol and tobacco also help lower your risk.


Aim to get your body up and moving for at least 30 minutes every day. So try anything that:

  • Makes your heart beat faster
  • Makes you breathe more deeply
  • You already enjoy doing


 Get More:  Get Less:
  • Vegetables - Choose non-starchy ones like tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers and carrots; strong evidence links garlic to lower colorectal cancer risk.
  • Fruit - Go for whole fruits more often, whether fresh or frozen. Because it's calorie-dense, limit even 100% fruit juice to 1 cup per day.
  • Whole Grains - Whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa and oatmeal are just a few great choices.
  • Beans - Add pinto, kidney, black, garbanzos and more to soups, salads and stews.

  • Red meat like beef, pork and lamb

    Diets high in these foods raise risk for colorectal cancer, and tend to be calorie-dense as well.

  • Processed meat

    Processed meat, like hot dogs, cold cuts, bacon and sausage increase risk for colorectal cancer.

  • Fast food

    Keep in mind that there are lots of calories and sodium packed into each bite.

A good rule of thumb:

Always fill at least 2/3 of your plate with plant foods, and let animal foods (meat and dairy) take up the rest.


If you do decide to drink, keep to no more than 1 standard drink (12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of liquor) per day.

Previous:« Facts

What the Research Shows


Source: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective and the 2012 CUP Report on Colorectal Cancer 
CONVINCING Effect on Risk:

Physical activity

Foods containing fiber

Body fatness

Red meat

Processed meat

Alcohol (men)

PROBABLE Effect on Risk:


Diets high in calcium


Alcohol (women)

What’s the Link?

  • Excess Body Fat Raises Colorectal Cancer Risk
    • Being overweight and obese increases blood levels of insulin and related hormones that can encourage the growth of cancer.
    • Excess fat also creates a pro-inflammatory environment in the body that can contribute to the growth of cancer.
  • Red Meat Raises Colorectal Cancer Risk
    • Red meat contains heme iron, which has been linked to the kind of cellular damage that increases risk.
    • The red meat stimulates the production of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds in the body.
    • Meat cooked at high temperatures produces heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), both are potent carcinogens.
  • Processed Meat Raises Colorectal Cancer Risk
    • Nitrates are added to many processed meats; they contribute to the production of N-nitroso compounds that can damange the lining of the gut.
    • Many processed meats are high in salt and nitrites, both of which are associated with increased risk.
  • Alcohol Raises Colorectal Cancer Risk
    • The body coverts alcohol into acetylaldehyde, a potent carcinogen.
    • Alcohol may act as a solvent, making it easier for carcinogens to penetrate the cells lining the colon.
    • Alcohol can adversely affect how efficiently the body repairs DNA damage and defends against free radicals.
    • Statistically, heavy drinkers tend to have poor diets, which increases their cancer risk.
  • Physical Activity Lowers Colorectal Cancer Risk -- Both Directly and Indirectly
    • DIRECTLY: Being active helps regulate hormone levels and reduces inflammation.
    • INDIRECTLY: Active people are less likely to be overweight or obese; as noted above, excess body fat raises risk for colorectal cancer -- and six other kinds of cancer as well.
  • Foods Containing Fiber Lower Colorectal Cancer Risk
    • In 2012, the AICR/WCRF CUP panel concluded that the evidence linking foods containing fiber with lower colorectal cancer risk had grown stronger in the years since the 2007 expert report. Evidence that dietary fiber protects against colorectal cancer is now convincing.
    • Besides their fiber, plant foods contain a wide variety of substances that have been linked to lower risk for cancer, including carotenoids, selenium, lycopene and many more.
  • Garlic Lowers Colorectal Cancer Risk
    • Both the AICR/WCRF expert report and the CUP cite several studies in which subjects who ate the most garlic had lower colorectal cancer risk than subjects who ate the least. And in many laboratory studies, garlic and its components (such as allyl sulphur compouns) have show the ability to slow and stop the formation of colon tumors.

About the CUP

The AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project (CUP) is the world's largest ongoing cancer prevention research project.  It is a living database of the global scientific evidence on diet, physical activity, body weight, and cancer.

AICR-Supported Studies
Grant Number Title
346480: Walnuts as a dietary strategy to break the obesity-colon cancer link
317596: Impact of resistance training and protein supplementation on lean muscle mass among childhood cancer survivors
314707: Mechanism establishing dietary induced relative risk for intestinal tumors
318305: Sugar Sweetened Beverages, Fructose and Sucrose, Genetic Susceptibility, Molecular Subtypes and Colorectal Cancer Survival�
318258: Inflammatory Potential of Diet and Risk of Cancer Mortality in Women
318559: Role of genistein in reversing tamoxifen resistance by acting as HDAC and DNMT inhibitor
204321: Vitamin E analog-induced tumor autophagy to enhance tumor immunity
308303: Beneficial effects of walnut consumption on colon cancer and inflammation
208672: Effect of vegetable intake on heterocyclic amine metabolism in humans
208460: Interactive chemoprotective effects of dietary fat and fiber on adult intestinal stem cells
209517: Genetic, Dietary and Environmental Influences on Vitamin D Metabolism
276688: Effects of walnut consumption in cancer and cardiometabolic disease
11A002: Effect of maternal B vitamin intake on tumorigenesis in offspring
10A078: Dietary Energy Density, Body Size and Biomarkers Related to Cancer Risk"
10A043: Chemopreventive Effect of the Dietary Probiotic VSL#3 on Colitis-associated Colorectal Cancer
10A070: Exercise and Quercetin in Colon Cancer: Role of Macrophages"
10A001: Investigation of the Influence of Peanut Agglutinin (PNA) on Cancer Cell Metastatic Spread
10A044: Synergistic Inhibition of Colon Carcinogenesis by 5-hydroxyl Nobiletin and Atorvastatin
10A102: Colon Cancer Prevention by the Black Pepper Alkaloid, Piperine, and the Green Tea Polyphenol (-)- Epigallocatechin-3-gallate
10A050: Anticancer Effects of Mixed Disulfide Conjugates of Allium Thiosulfinates and Cysteine/glutathione
10A085: Therapeutic Synergy Between Dietary Calcium and Bacterial Entertoxins for the Prevention and Treatment of Colon Cancer
10A072: GPx-1 Polymorphisms, Selenium and Cancer
09A041: Soy Sphingadienes and Related Compounds in Colon Cancer Chemoprevention and Treatment
09A002: Factors Determining the Apoptotic Response of Colorectal Carcinoma Cells to Butyrate, a Fermentation Product Derived from Dietary Fiber
09A098: Does Vitamin D Status Modulate Colon Cancer Driven by APC Allele Loss?
09A077: Vitamin B6 and Colorectal Neoplasia: Modification by Time
09A116: Genetic Interactions in Vitamin D and Colorectal Cancer in African Americans
09A171: Adolescent Diet and Lifestyle Factors and Colorectal Adenoma
09A136: Chemoprevention of DSS-induced Colitis and Colorectal Cancer by Dietary Vitamin D in Mice with Defective TGF Signaling
09A143: Dietary Intake of Choline and Betaine, Related Genetic Polymorphisms, and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer
09A056: The Role of Dietary Fiber and Gut Microflora in Prevention of Colorectal Cancer
09A020: Dietary Induced Sporadic Colon Cancer
08A083: Transcriptional Attenuation Induced by Sodium Butyrate and Vitamin D3 in Colon Cancer Cells
08A127: Interaction Between Vitamin A and Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase in Colorectal Tumor Metastasis
08A074: Magnesium, Calcium, and Risk for Colorectal Adenoma
MG08A001: Adiponectin in Colon Cancer-An Interventional Study
07A074: Detoxification of the Dietary Carcinogen N-hydroxy-PhIP: Variability in Human Colon and Relevance for Colon Cancer
07B061: Role of MLH1 Promoter, SNP and Diet in Colon Cancer
07B080: Ability of n-3 Fatty Acids to Influence Colon Tumor Formation by Modulating Estrogen Action
06A035: Inflammatory Pathways in Curcumin Chemoprevention
06A057: Chemoprevention of Colon Cancer Using Bromelain from Pineapple
05A121: Dietary Modulation of Intestinal Tumorigenesis
05A119: A Study of Alpha and Gamma Tocopherol and Modulation of PPARs: Chemopreventitives in Colon Cancer
05B058: Luteolin as Dietary Chemopreventive Agent in Colorectal Cancer
05A019: Mucin Depleted Foci (MDF) as New Biomarkers in Colon Carcinogenesis
05A081: Use of Novel Gentic Mouse Models to Investigate the Health Benefits of Folate in Colon Cancer
05A047: Influence of Other Dietary Factors on the Bioavailability and Cancer Preventive Activities of the Green Tea Polyphenol, (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate
05B094: Fish Oil and Pectin Enhances Apoptosis in Colonocytes via Inhibition of PGE2 and PPAR Delta Signaling and Promotion of Death Receptor Pathway
04B036: Transgenic fat-1 Mice as a Model for n-3 and n-6 PUFA Modulation of Intestinal Cancer
04B010: Selenium Protection from Chemotherapeutic Toxicity
04B072: Iron and the Chemopreventive Activity of Curcumin
03A054: Sequelae of Adiposity in the Etiology of Colorectal Neoplasia
03A061: Folate, DNA Repair and Cancer
03B040: Strategies for Colon Cancer Prevention with Transgenic Alfalfa: Resveratrol Glucoside
03B031: Soybean Consumption and Colon Cancer Prevention - Studies in a Mouse Model and in Human Colon Cells
03A038: Use of Novel Genetic Mouse Models to Investigate the Health Benefits of Folate in Colon Cancer
03A067: Joint Effect of Diet, MTHFR and DNMT1 on Risk of Colorectal Neoplasia: Association and Linkage Studies
03A002: Role of Wnt Signaling in Butyrate-Induced Colon Carcinoma Cell Proliferation, Differentiation and Apoptosis
03A091: Chemoprevention of Dietary Carcinogen, 2-Amino-1-Methyl-6-Phenylimidazo [4,5-b] Pyridine(PhIP) Induced Colon Cancer by Sulforaphane
02A124: Prostaglandin E Receptors and Intracellular Calcium Signaling in Intestinal Tumorigenesis
02A066: Folate Deficiency; 5, 10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR) Gene Polymorphism, and Molecular Pathways in Colorectal Carcinogenesis
02A087: Diet, Colonic Bacterial Metabolism and Colon Cancer Risk in African Americans
02A017: Effects of Adenoviral Gene Transfer of C.elegans n-3 Fatty Acid Desaturase on Lipid Profile and Growth of Human Cancer Cells
01A010: Increased Efficacy and Amelioration of Side Effects of Radiotherapy
01B118: Biochemical and Molecular Basis for the Cancer Chemopreventive Activity of Dietary Selenium Supplementation
01A067: Determination of Cranberry Constituents with Antiproliferative Activity Against Human Tumor Cell Lines
01A069: The Effect of Anitoxidant and Dietary Restriction on the Development of Spontaneous Tumors in Heterozygous MnSOD Knockout Mice
01A095: Suppression of Tumorigenesis by n-3 Fatty Acids
01B087: Effect of Wheat Class and Processing on Colon Cancer Prevention
01B097: Herbal Supplements and Prevention of Colon Cancer
00B023: Effect of Age on Colon Cancer Inhibition by Curcumin
00B055: The Influence of Phytoestrogens and Estrogen on Colon Cancer in Estrogen Receptor Knockout Mice
00A055: Influence of Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA 22:6n-3) on p21 ras Membrane Binding and Function
00B020: Insulin Resistance in the Etiology of Colorectal Neoplasia
00A066: Mechanism of Cancer Prevention by Fiber
99A092: In Vitro Effects of Resveratrol During Early Stages of Intestinal Tumorigenesis
99B093: Dietary Isothiocyanates, Glutathione S-transferases, and Colorectal Neoplasia
99B055: The Role of Susceptibility Genes and Dietary Risk Factors in the Etiology of Mutator versus Suppressor Pathway of Colon Cancer
99A005: Dietary Inhibition of Cyclooxygenase-2 Gene Expression: A Novel Approach to Cancer Prevention
99B076: Short-chain Fatty Acids: Molecular Mechanism of Action
99B070: The Effects of Caloric Restriction on Chemically Induced Mutagenesis in the Rat
99A083: Effect of Antioxidant Vitamins on Radioimmunotherapy-Induced Normal Tissue Toxicity
99A095: Role of Arachidonic Acid and PGE2 as Key Mediators of Intestinal Tumorigenesis in Vivo
98A086: The Effects of Folate on Intestinal Carcinogenesis in Genetically Predisposed Murine Models
98A051: Metabolism and Pharmacokinetics of IP6 In Vivo
98B063: Regulation of Apoptosis in Human Colorectal Carcinoma Cells
98A097: Suppression of Tumorigenesis by N-3 Fatty Acids
98B034: Dietary Lipids Alter Colonic Lymphocytes to Increase Tumorigenesis
98A075: Phytate Promotes Apoptosis in Coloncytes via Inhibition of the PI 3 Kinase/Akt Signaling Pathway
98B097: Biochemical and Molecular Basis for the Cancer Chemopreventive Activity of Dietary Selenium Supplementation
97A113: The Use of Transgenic Models to Elucidate the Molecular Mechanism by Which Dietary Restriction Reduces the Occurence of Cancer
97B020: Effect of a Chemopreventive Diet on Carcinogen-Induced Colonic Ras Activation
97B004: Effect of Short-Chain Fatty Acids on the APC-modulated B-catenin-Tcf transcription pathway in colonic carcinoma cells.
96A051: Effect of Bile Acids on Colonic Signal Transduction Mechanisms
96B084: Mutators and Folate Deficiency in Colon Cancer
96A077: Regulation of Apoptosis in Human Colorectal Carcinoma Cells
96A081: Dietary Lipid Effects on Expression of Manganese Superoxide Dismutase During Colon Carcinogenesis
96A078: Activation of a Tumor Suppressor Gene by Nutrient Derivatives
96A072: Vitamin D: Biologic Significance in Colon Cancer
96B077: Effect of Dietary Fat Source on Phospholipase C Gamma 1 Activation in Early Stage Colon Carcinogenesis


Today, your chances for overcoming colorectal cancer and returning to an active and full life are the best they've ever been. 

But throughout your treatment, and after it is over, you will face many everyday questions. AICR can help.

AICR’s CancerResource: A Program for Those Living with Cancer is a free kit of information specifically for the newly diagnosed cancer patient.


There are now over 1.1 million colorectal cancer survivors in the US alone, living longer, healthier lives than ever before.

See below for selections from AICR's CancerResource. Or read the complete CancerResource flipping book online.




More AICR Materials for Colorectal Cancer Survivors

In-depth brochures on cancer survivorship; read online or order a free copy.

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Last Updated: 03/02/2016
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