Search in All Title Contents

In 2017, 34,331 new cases were diagnosed in both sexes, making it the tumor with the highest incidence in Spain

  • Limiting the consumption of red or processed meat to twice a week or eliminate tobacco and alcohol are some of the tips that MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid experts recommend to prevent the disease

  • Early detection can mean an increase in life expectancy in up to 80% of cases

Colorectal cancer is the tumor that caused more new cases among the Spanish population in 2017, according to data from the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM). Of the 215,534 cancers diagnosed last year in both sexes, 16% were caused by said disease. "These numbers can be associated with increased sedentary lifestyle, obesity and the consumption of processed and sweetened foods in Spain," explains Dr. Jose Maria Vieitez, head of the Digestive Tumors Section of the Medical Oncology Service at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid.

Despite its high incidence, this cancer stands out for its great capacity for prevention as it is related to external factors (such as diet or physical activity), and because detectable precursor lesions are easily eliminated. In fact, adopting a healthy diet and lifestyle can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 70%[1]. It is important to raise awareness of the importance of acquiring some life habits and eliminate others to reduce the incidence of colon cancer. On the occasion of World Colon Cancer Day, Dr. Vieitez emphasizes the advice that both young and old should follow to prevent the disease.

Reduce the consumption of red or processed meat. The World Health Organization (WHO) included processed meat in Group 1, among those carcinogenic to humans, and red meat in Group 2A, those considered as probably carcinogenic, since there is a relationship with colon cancer[2]. "It is important to follow the WHO recommendation to reduce the consumption of red and processed meat to twice a week to help prevent this disease," said Dr. Vieitez.

Follow a balanced and healthy diet. "Foods that produce slow intestinal transit and constipation can increase the chances of developing the disease because they favor carcinogenic substances coming into contact with the intestinal wall for longer," says Dr. Vieitez. Therefore, it is important to include foods rich in folic acid in the diet, such as dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, avocados or legumes, as well as dairy products and vitamin D products.

Eliminate tobacco and alcohol. These substances are related to all cancers because they cause cell damage. Specifically, tobacco contains more than 60 carcinogenic substances and free radicals that can affect the colon mucosa. In the case of alcohol, for every 10 grams consumed per day, the risk of suffering from colorectal cancer increases to 7%.[3].

Do physical exercise daily. Physical activity helps to improve the physical and mental health of people, as well as to prevent potentially serious diseases. In fact, daily exercise helps prevent colorectal cancer by up to 26%. "Sedentary lifestyle and obesity are two problems that are closely linked to the appearance of tumors in the colon and rectum," says MD Anderson Madrid specialist.

Aspirin as a preventive measure. "Although the use of drugs must always be subject to medical prescription, there are studies that show a relationship between the intake of aspirin and the lower incidence of colon cancer," explains Dr. MD Anderson Madrid.

Direct relationship between early detection and decreased mortality


In order to reduce the high incidence rates of colorectal cancer in Spain, the entire population must be made aware of the need for routine tests such as stool blood test (TSOH). "From when the first lesions appear until the cancer develops, it can take up to 6 years, so routine check-ups play a fundamental role in the early localization of the tumor," advances Vieitez. Early detection is so important that it can mean an increase in life expectancy in up to 80% of cases.

Screening should begin after age 50 in healthy individuals even if they have no family history. In the case that there is a family history, it is recommended to do the tests about 10 years before the age at which the cancer was detected in the family member. If there are several relatives who have suffered the disease, the age of the one who diagnosed earliest is taken as a reference.

Although colonoscopy is the best detection strategy, it is only done when there are obvious symptoms or if there are cases in close relatives. Therefore, TSOH is a useful way to know if the disease has developed when symptoms are still minor. Among the most common symptoms of colon cancer, include the presence of blood in the stool, abdominal pain and fatigue due to the development of iron deficiency anemia.


[1] Cicuéndez Ávila, Ramón A. (2015) Epidemiología del cáncer de colon y recto en hospitales públicos de la Comunidad Autónoma de Madrid. Análisis de supervivencia. Disponible en: