What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Colorectal Cancer?

Message from Meryl Streep

“For me, screening was simple and quick,” says actress Meryl Streep in this video. “There are several tests that you can choose from. If you’re 50 or older, you should talk to your doctor. Decide which one is right for you.”

Overall, the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened for colorectal cancer routinely, beginning at age 50.

Almost all colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Such polyps can be present in the colon for years before invasive cancer develops. They may not cause any symptoms, especially early on. Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best.

Diet

Research is underway to find out if changes to your diet can reduce your colorectal cancer risk. Medical experts often recommend a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, such as coronary artery disease and diabetes. This diet also may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

Aspirin

Researchers are looking at the role of some medicines and supplements in preventing colorectal cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force found that taking low-dose aspirin can help prevent cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer in some adults, depending on age and risk factors. For more information, download Aspirin Use for the Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease and Colorectal Cancer: Consumer Guide. [PDF-212KB]external icon

Healthy Choices

Some studies suggest that people may reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco.

Page last reviewed: January 30, 2019