Prevention & Risk Factors for Rectal Cancer

Your doctor may recommend that you have regular screening tests for rectal cancer. Rectal cancer is largely preventable with routine screening, including colonoscopy. This is a procedure that allows doctors to look inside your rectum and colon to detect problems early and thus dramatically lower your risk for rectal cancer. During the test, your doctor can find and remove benign polyps (abnormal growths on the inside surface of the rectum) before they turn into cancer.

We also recommend keeping these healthy habits, which may lower your risk for rectal cancer:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables, and fiber and less animal and dairy fat. The American Cancer Society recommends you eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Choosing foods such as whole-grain breads, cereals, grains, rice, pasta, and beans is a great way to improve your diet. Foods rich in calcium and folic acid may also reduce your risk for rectal cancer.
  • Exercise regularly. Even moderate regular physical activity, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, raking leaves, or walking, can help reduce your risk for rectal cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is an important risk factor for rectal cancer.

There are a number of risk factors for rectal cancer — some you can modify and others you can’t. Making healthier choices in your everyday life can help reduce many of these risks.