Researchers found that colon cancer patients who lived healthier lifestyles had a higher rate of staying in remission.

Colon cancer is one of the deadliest cancers. Patient survival rates are between 92 to 11 percent within the first five years after diagnosis, depending on the stage of the cancer. But for patients who do survive and go into remission, researchers have found that living a healthier life can drastically increase the length of their remission.

The American Cancer Society released lifestyle guidelines for cancer patients that advised maintaining a healthy body weight, exercising regularly, not drinking too much alcohol or drinking little alcohol, and eating an ounce of tree nuts twice or more weekly. After studying 1000 colon cancer patients in remission, they found that those who followed these recommended lifestyle guidelines had between a 47 to 51 percent lower risk of their cancer recurring for the next 7 to 10 years. Patients who drank more alcohol ended up near the higher end of the risk spectrum.

This means that simply living a healthier life can cut your odds of cancer recurrence by half for about a decade if you’re in colon cancer remission. The American Cancer Society’s lifestyle recommendations are:

  • Maintain a healthy body mass index.
  • Exercise for 150 minutes total weekly. Do strength training twice weekly.
  • Eat a diet high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Eat 1-ounce of tree nuts at least twice a week. Peanuts and peanut butter are not considered tree nuts.
  • Limit alcohol consumption. Drink little to no alcohol.

Other Factors That May Affect Colon Cancer Remission

If you’d like to enjoy less risk of any form of colon cancer coming back, limit or remove red meat from your diet. Harvard Medical School says their review of research concludes that eating processed or fresh red meat increases your risk for developing colon cancer by about 33 percent.

Why does eating red meat contribute to causing colon cancer? Researchers found that your body converts some compounds present in red meat into N-nitroso compounds (NOCs), which are carcinogens. They found that people who ate a diet rich in red meat had higher levels of NOCs in their stool, whereas people on a vegetarian diet had low levels of NOCs in their stools. The researchers then took samples of colon cells from people with high-NOC stools and discovered that the cells’ DNA was damaged. They concluded that eating red meat directly damages colon cells’ DNA. Chronic ongoing damage to DNA is a significant risk factor for developing cancer.

The good news is that eating fresh chicken didn’t seem to increase colon cancer risk. They also found that eating fish lowers your risk for developing colon cancer by 33 percent. Also, people who ate red meat accompanied by a high amount of fiber had less levels of NOCs in their stools, but still more NOCs than the stools of people on a vegetarian diet.

Avoid developing colon cancer and colon cancer recurrence by living healthier. Exercise regularly, stay away from red meat, enjoy a vegetarian-like diet with fish, eat more tree nuts, and stay away from alcohol. But you can also have chicken once in a while, which doesn’t seem to affect colon cancer risk unless you eat it burned or charred. If you’re going to eat red meat, then include a high amount of fiber with your meal to help lower the NOC levels in your GI tract.