Colorectal Cancer Overview

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After Treatment TOPICS

Can you reduce your risk for colorectal cancer recurrence?

Most people want to know if there are things they can do to reduce their risk of getting cancer again (either a recurrence or a new cancer). For most cancers there is little solid evidence that can guide people in this direction. This doesn't mean that nothing will help -- it's just that for the most part this is an area that hasn't been well-studied. Most studies have looked at ways of preventing cancer in the first place.

However, some studies have pointed to things people can do that might help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer returning.

Colonoscopy: One thing that we know that can help is going for follow-up exams, especially colonoscopy. We know that colonoscopy can find polyps before they become cancers. Having this test on schedule can help prevent any new colon cancers.

Physical activity: Some studies of people with earlier stage (I, II, or III) colorectal cancers showed that increasing physical activity after diagnosis reduced the risk of death from colorectal cancer by as much as half. The level of activity needed to reduce risk was about 4 to 5 hours of brisk walking per week. More studies are needed to further define this possible benefit.

Diet: Eating a healthy diet may also lower the risk of colorectal cancer coming back. In a large study of patients with stage III colon cancer, those with the highest intakes of meat, fat, refined grains (sugars), and desserts were about 3 times more likely to have a recurrence than those who ate the lowest levels. More research is needed to confirm these results and to figure out which of these factors are most strongly linked to cancer recurrence.

Last Medical Review: 08/15/2013
Last Revised: 01/31/2014