20 Foods to Cut Colon Cancer Risk

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20 Foods to Cut Colon Cancer Risk

Up to 90% of colon cancer cases can be linked to diet. Let food be your medicine

Recently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a new drug for metastatic colon cancer

Lonsurf is a combination of two drugs, trifluridine and tipiracil. Its most common side effects are life-threatening anemia, a decrease in infection-fighting white blood cells and blood platelets, physical weakness, and extreme fatigue. It also causes nausea, decreased appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pain and fever.

The drug maker announced the approval as a milestone offering significant survival benefits to patients. But does it?

A randomized, double-blind study of 800 patients with previously treated advanced colorectal cancer found that patients treated with Lonsurf lived 7.1 months. That compared to 5.3 months for those who took a placebo.

In other words, the drug extended life for less than two months.

The National Cancer Institute says colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

Rather than wait for drug companies to find more toxic treatments that don't work, it's best to take your health into your own hands to prevent colon cancer in the first instance.

The primary driver of colon cancer is the Western diet. In a study published in the journal Nutrition researchers noted that diet contributes to 50% to 90% of colon cancer cases.[i]

Here are 20 healthy foods that may help protect you from colon cancer.

1. Nuts

A meta-analysis of 36 observational studies found that compared to those eating the least nuts, people consuming the most nuts had a 24% lower risk of colorectal cancer.

2. Leafy Greens

Leafy green are rich in the mineral magnesium. In a meta-analysis of eight prospective studies published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the highest average intake of magnesium was associated with an 11% reduction in colorectal cancer risk compared to the lowest average intake.

And for every 50 mg per day increase in magnesium, colon cancer was reduced by 7%.

Other good food sources of magnesium include cacao, dried seaweed, broccoli, beans, lentils, whole grains, almonds, cashews, filberts, sesame seeds, and avocados.

3. Prunes

Researchers from Texas A&M University and the University of North Carolina have shown a diet containing dried plums can positively affect your microbiota or gut bacteria. Their study was funded by the California Dried Plum Board and presented at the 2015 Experimental Biology conference in Boston.[ii]

The authors believe that by promoting retention of good bacteria throughout the colon, prunes reduce the rates of precancerous lesions. They suggested that regularly eating prunes may be a viable dietary strategy to help reduce the risk of colon cancer.

4. Turmeric

Curcumin from turmeric is a powerful anti-cancer nutrient. Lab studies have found that curcumin potently induces programmed cell death in colon cancer cells. Researchers believe curcumin may have therapeutic potential in the management of colon cancer, especially in tumors that are resistant to conventional chemotherapy. It's also been called an important candidate for colon cancer prevention.

5. Pineapple

Bromelain is a digestive enzyme found primarily in the core of the pineapple. It's been found to be superior to the highly toxic chemotherapy agent 5-fluorouracil as an anti-tumor agent in preclinical research.

One animal study found drinking fresh or unpasteurized frozen pineapple juice with active bromelain enzymes decreases inflammation associated with abnormal colon growths.[iii]

6. Kimchi

Kimchi is a traditional fermented vegetable dish from Korea. It has probiotics which are known to help prevent the onset of colon cancer. When Korean researchers added mistletoe extract to kimchi the combination inhibited the growth of human colon cancer cells by 80%.[iv]

Researchers believe the anticancer effects of kimchi are mostly due to regulation of apoptosis of cancer cells and the inhibition of inflammation.

7. and 8. Green Tea and Parsley

German researchers tested a mixture of flavonoids on 36 patients with resected colon cancer and 51 patients who had colon polyps removed. One group of patients received a daily dose of 20 mg of apigenin and 20 mg of epigallocathechin-gallat (EGCG). Over three to four years, the colon cancer patients receiving the flavonoids had no cancer recurrence compared to a 20% recurrence in the control group.[v]

In addition, polyps recurred in 7% of the treated patients compared to 47% of the control group.

EGCG is a powerful antioxidant found in green tea. 

Apigenin is a flavonoid found in parsley, artichokes, and celery. Other sources include rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil, coriander, chamomile, and cloves. 

9. Grapes

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and resveratrol (derived from grapes) has been linked to a reduced incidence of colon cancer. Research shows resveratrol suppresses a signaling pathway activated in over 85% of colon cancers.

Thirty study participants were placed on a low resveratrol diet. Then they were divided into three groups receiving one-third to one pound of grapes per day for two weeks.

Cancer markers were reduced after grape ingestion. After eating the grapes, markers for individuals over 50 years of age were reduced to levels seen in younger participants.

The researchers believe short-term ingestion of one-third to one pound of grapes per day may reduce the risk of mutational events that can facilitate colon carcinogenesis. Eating daily grapes may play a role in colon cancer prevention for high-risk individuals.

10. Black Seed

Cell studies show black seed extract compares favorably to the chemoagent 5-fluoruracil in suppressing colon cancer growth, without the safety issues. And animal research confirms that black seed oil has significant inhibitory effects against colon cancer, without side effects.[vi]

Other foods that are promising in combating colon cancer include:

11. Miso fermented for 180 days could act as a chemopreventive agent in colon cancer.

12. Honey. Caffeic acid contained in honey inhibits colon cancer cell growth.

13. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, found to have antitumor activity in colon cancer cell and animal studies.

14. Apple pectin decreases the number of colon cancer tumors.

15. Olive oil polyphenols inhibit human colon cancer cell proliferation.

16. Oolong tea contains a flavone derivative, chafuroside, which may be a good chemopreventive agent for colon cancer.

17. Wheatgrass extract induces programmed death for colon cancer cells.

18. Pomegranate seed oil suppresses colon cancer in animal studies.

19. Chaga mushrooms show antitumor activity against human colon cancer cells.

20. Red yeast rice may inhibit colon cancer growth.


[i] Kasdagly M et al. "Colon carcinogenesis: influence of Western diet-induced obesity and targeting stem cells using dietary bioactive compounds." Nutrition. 2014 Nov-Dec;30(11-12):1242-56. doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2014.02.016.

[ii] Texas A&M AgriLife. "Plum good health benefits." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150927120304.htm (accessed October 4, 2015).

[iii] Laura P Hale, Maciej Chichlowski, Chau T Trinh, Paula K Greer. Dietary supplementation with fresh pineapple juice decreases inflammation and colonic neoplasia in IL-10-deficient mice with colitis. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2010 Dec;16(12):2012-21. 

[iv] Kil JH: Studies on development of cancer preventive and anticancer kimchi and its anticancer mechanism [PhD thesis]. Pusan National University, Busan, Korea, 2004.

[v] Harald Hoensch, Bertram Groh, Lutz Edler, Wilhelm Kirch. "Prospective cohort comparison of flavonoid treatment in patients with resected colorectal cancer to prevent recurrence." World J Gastroenterol. 2008 Apr 14;14(14):2187-93.

[vi] Elsayed I Salim, Shoji Fukushima . "Chemopreventive potential of volatile oil from black cumin (Nigella sativa L.) seeds against rat colon carcinogenesis." Nutr Cancer. 2003;45(2):195-202. PMID: 12881014

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