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Diet recommendations for colorectal cancer prevention

Diet recommendations for colorectal cancer prevention

Updated on
November 12, 2023
Medical reviewer
Medically reviewed by
Haleigh Gaines, MS, RDN
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Written by
Romanwell Dietitians

Those with ulcerative colitis & Crohn’s colitis (Crohn’s disease of the large intestine) are at an increased risk for colorectal cancer (CRC) due to repeated periods of inflammation in the colon.

Factors that increase the risk for colorectal cancer in people with IBD include

Important note: while studies have shown that certain dietary factors increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the general population, no studies have been carried out specifically in people with IBD. However, given that people with IBD are at an increased risk for developing colorectal cancer, it’s important to understand the foods and eating patterns that may increase or decrease your risk.


Dietary factors associated with an increased risk for colorectal cancer

The following foods and beverages may lead to an increase risk for colorectal cancer in the general population

  • Red meat (beef, pork, lamb, bison)
  • Processed meat (deli meat, bacon, hot dogs, sausages)
  • Alcohol consumption
  • A Westernized diet

Dietary factors associated with a decreased risk for colorectal cancer

These foods and beverages have been shown to be associated with a decreased risk for colorectal cancer in the general population

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Fiber-containing foods
  • Dairy
  • Coffee
  • A Mediterranean Diet (or diet containing primarily plant-based foods)

How to use this information

Just because a food or beverage may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer does not mean that you need to avoid these foods altogether. 

When researchers examine the risks associated with certain foods, they are looking at dietary patterns across a whole population. We have no research showing that consuming a single food one time increases or decreases your risk for any disease or complication. 

It’s okay to occasionally consume foods in the high risk category. It’s not what your diet looks like during a given meal or on a given day that matters, but rather what your diet looks like overall that makes the biggest difference in your health. 

Colorectal cancer screening

Talk to your doctor about your personal risk for colorectal cancer and how often you should be getting colonoscopies. Colonoscopies are essential to monitor for colorectal cancer development, so it's important not to delay them.


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  1. Stidham RW, Higgins PDR. Colorectal Cancer in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Clin Colon Rectal Surg. 2018 May;31(3):168-178. doi: 10.1055/s-0037-1602237. Epub 2018 Apr 1. PMID: 29720903; PMCID: PMC5929884.
  2. Aykan NF. Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer. Oncol Rev. 2015 Dec 28;9(1):288. doi: 10.4081/oncol.2015.288. PMID: 26779313; PMCID: PMC4698595.
  3. Feng YL, Shu L, Zheng PF, Zhang XY, Si CJ, Yu XL, Gao W, Zhang L. Dietary patterns and colorectal cancer risk: a meta-analysis. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2017 May;26(3):201-211. doi: 10.1097/CEJ.0000000000000245. PMID: 26945285.
  4. Song M, Garrett WS, Chan AT. Nutrients, foods, and colorectal cancer prevention. Gastroenterology. 2015 May;148(6):1244-60.e16. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2014.12.035. Epub 2015 Jan 6. PMID: 25575572; PMCID: PMC4409470.
  5. Borgas P, Gonzalez G, Veselkov K, Mirnezami R. Phytochemically rich dietary components and the risk of colorectal cancer: A systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies. World J Clin Oncol. 2021 Jun 24;12(6):482-499. doi: 10.5306/wjco.v12.i6.482. PMID: 34189071; PMCID: PMC8223713.
  6. Moazzen S, van der Sloot KWJ, Bock GH, Alizadeh BZ. Systematic review and meta-analysis of diet quality and colorectal cancer risk: is the evidence of sufficient quality to develop recommendations? Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2021;61(16):2773-2782. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2020.1786353. Epub 2020 Jul 2. PMID: 32613845.
  7. Schmit SL, Rennert HS, Rennert G, Gruber SB. Coffee Consumption and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2016 Apr;25(4):634-9. doi: 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-15-0924. PMID: 27196095; PMCID: PMC4874555.

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