Written by Helen Chu, MS RDN, US Registered Dietitian

Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer type in Hong Kong.  A recent research by the Chinese university of Hong Kong shows that there is a rising trend of colorectal cancer in population under age 55
There are some steps one can take to prevent or lower the risk of Colorectal cancer
  1. Limit red (beef, pork, lamb, veal) and processed meat (ham, bacon, sausage, hot dog)
A recent UK study (published International journal of epidemiology April 2019) people who eat 76 gm ( 3-4 ounces) red or processed meat per day had 20% higher chance of developing colorectal cancer. Even a small portion, such as one slice ( 25 gm ) of ham or bacon per day is linked to higher risk
In 2015, after reviewing hundreds of studies WHO (World health organization) classified processed meat (ham, hot dog, bacon, sausages) as “carcinogenic “to humans.
Quite often the breakfast or lunch we take especially at fast food restaurants may include items such as Fried eggs and ham, ham-and-egg sandwiches, luncheon meat and egg noodles, rice noodles with yuncai and pork , macaroni with ham, rice with minced beef, etc. We then have to make a choice of eating no more than a slice (25 gm) of processed meat or red meat (76 gm) either at breakfast or lunch and not both.  Avoiding daily consumption of processed meat is a good start.  Chicken, fish and vegetarian dishes are good alternatives.
It is also known that cooking processed meat at high temperature or with direct contact with heat, e.g. grilling, produces more carcinogenic chemicals than using lower heat method like baking and stewing.
  1. Choose plant protein: 1-3 cups of legumes (beans, lentils, beans, peanuts) per week. 
Replace red meat (beef pork, lamb, veal) with legume. Dry beans and peas are rich in fiber and are good sources of protein. Half cup of cooked beans supplies 7-8 gm protein. A meta-analysis of 14 studies show an association of higher intake of legumes with lower risk of colorectal cancer. The 2015-2020 US Dietary guideline recommends 1-3 cups legumes per week.
  1.  Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables:  2 cups of fruits, 2 ½ cup of vegetable per day. 
According to AICR, (American Cancer Institute of Cancer Research) diet rich in fruits and vegetables appears to lower the risk of many cancers including colon cancer. Fruits and vegetables supply a variety of nutrients, fiber and phytochemicals that have protective effect against cancer.
  1. Berries: Black and blue berries have phytochemical, and antioxidant to protect cells from free radical damage and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
  1. Cruciferous vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, turnip ,bok choy, kale, broccoli are rich in vitamin C, E and K and minerals. Cruciferous vegetables have sulforaphhane, a plant compound with anticancer properties 
  1. Apple - Apple ‘s cancer preventive potential comes from good source of vitamin C and fiber.  Apple is rich in pectin, a soluble fiber which can be used by gut bacteria to produce compounds that protect against cancer. One medium-size apple supplies 3 gm fiber and can make a healthy snack.
  1.  Whole grains
Whole grains - Oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat noodles, bread & crackers are good sources of fiber.  There is convincing scientific evidence that a fiber intake of 25-30 gm/day can lower cancer risk by 17%.  Read the nutrition label - choose food with at least 3 gm fiber per serving.
  1. Limit alcohol intake
There is strong link between higher alcohol intake and colon cancer especially in people with family history of the disease.
  1. Maintain healthy weight  
According to AICR there is strong evidence that weight gain, overweight, obesity increase risk of several types of cancer including colorectal cancer.  When one follow healthy eating guidelines and undertake regular 30-minute physical activity five times per week, it will help to keep a healthy weight.

  • K Bradbury et al.  Diet and colorectal cancer in UK Biobank: a prospective study   International journal of epidemiology April 2019
  • World Cancer research Fund /American Institute for Cancer Research CUP continuous update project, Diet, nutrition, physical activity and colorectal cancer revised 2018
  • AMERICNA Institute for Cancer Research:  AICR’s foods that fight cancer