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Clin Med Insights Gastroenterol. 2014 Jul 14;7:33-46. doi: 10.4137/CGast.S14039. eCollection 2014.

Primary and secondary prevention of colorectal cancer.

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Integrated Management, Hospital Universitario de Albacete, Albacete, Spain. ; University of Castille-La Mancha, Albacete, Spain.
EAP Albacete, Albacete, Spain.
Head General and Digestive Surgery Department, "La Paz" University Hospital, Madrid, Spain.



Cancer is a worldwide problem as it will affect one in three men and one in four women during their lifetime. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the third most frequent cancer in men, after lung and prostate cancer, and is the second most frequent cancer in women after breast cancer. It is also the third cause of death in men and women separately, and is the second most frequent cause of death by cancer if both genders are considered together. CRC represents approximately 10% of deaths by cancer. Modifiable risk factors of CRC include smoking, physical inactivity, being overweight and obesity, eating processed meat, and drinking alcohol excessively. CRC screening programs are possible only in economically developed countries. However, attention should be paid in the future to geographical areas with ageing populations and a western lifestyle.19,20 Sigmoidoscopy screening done with people aged 55-64 years has been demonstrated to reduce the incidence of CRC by 33% and mortality by CRC by 43%.


To assess the effect on the incidence and mortality of CRC diet and lifestyle and to determine the effect of secondary prevention through early diagnosis of CRC.


A comprehensive search of Medline and Pubmed articles related to primary and secondary prevention of CRC and subsequently, a meta-analysis of the same blocks are performed.


225 articles related to primary or secondary prevention of CRC were retrieved. Of these 145 were considered valid on meta-analysis: 12 on epidemiology, 56 on diet and lifestyle, and over 77 different screenings for early detection of CRC. Cancer is a worldwide problem as it will affect one in three men and one in four women during their lifetime. There is no doubt whatsoever which environmental factors, probably diet, may account for these cancer rates. Excessive alcohol consumption and cholesterol-rich diet are associated with a high risk of colon cancer. A diet poor in folic acid and vitamin B6 is also associated with a higher risk of developing colon cancer with an overexpression of p53. Eating pulses at least three times a week lowers the risk of developing colon cancer by 33%, after eating less meat, while eating brown rice at least once a week cuts the risk of CRC by 40%. These associations suggest a dose-response effect. Frequently eating cooked green vegetables, nuts, dried fruit, pulses, and brown rice has been associated with a lower risk of colorectal polyps. High calcium intake offers a protector effect against distal colon and rectal tumors as compared with the proximal colon. Higher intake of dairy products and calcium reduces the risk of colon cancer. Taking an aspirin (ASA) regularly after being diagnosed with colon cancer is associated with less risk of dying from this cancer, especially among people who have tumors with COX-2 overexpression.16 Nonetheless, these data do not contradict the data obtained on a possible genetic predisposition, even in sporadic or non-hereditary CRC. CRC is susceptible to screening because it is a serious health problem given its high incidence and its associated high morbidity/mortality.


(1) Cancer is a worldwide problem. (2) A modification of diet and lifestyle could reduce morbidity and mortality. (3) Early detection through screening improves prognosis and reduces mortality.

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