Healthwise for Guys: Colon Cancer

(FN1871, Revised November 2023)
Lead Author
Lead Author:
Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist
Other Authors

Michelle Steppan, Dietetic Intern (former)

Web only
Publication Sections

Quick Quiz

1. What dietary habit has been linked to a lower risk of colon cancer?

a. Eating a lot of meat

b. Eating a lot of fish

c. Eating a lot of fiber

d. Eating a lot of dairy

2. Which of the following foods are good sources of fiber? (Circle all that apply)

a. Fruits

b. Vegetables

c. Beans and other legumes

d. Whole grains

3. At what age should most men and women begin screening for colon cancer?

a. 30

b. 40

c. 50

d. 60

Answers: 1. c; 2. a, b, c, d; 3. c

What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer is caused by nonstop and unnecessary cell growth in the colon (also known as the large intestine). This growth can result in cancerous tumors. Early detection is key to survival, and several methods can be used for testing.

  • A colonoscopy is a testing procedure in which a doctor examines the colon with a camera, checking for polyps and cancer cells.
  • A blood stool test (such as FOBT or FIT) is an at-home test that checks for hidden blood in stool. Blood in the stool can be an early sign of colon cancer.

How common is colon cancer?

The American Cancer Society estimated that more than 71,000 men would be diagnosed with new cases of colon cancer in 2017 in the U.S. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for American men, and more than 27,150 men with colon cancer were not expected to survive in 2017.

Should I get a colonoscopy?

Risk FactorYesNo
I have irritable bowel disease.oo
I have a family history of colon or prostate cancer.oo
Sometimes I notice blood in my stool.oo
I often experience stomach pain/discomfort.oo
My bowel movements have changed and now I often am constipated.oo
My stool is suddenly loose and watery.oo
I am 45 years old (or older).oo

* Even one “Yes” indicates you could be at risk for colon cancer. Check with your health-care provider about your screening options.

How can I lower my risk?

  • Reduce your intake of foods that are high in saturated fats such as processed meats (hotdogs, beef jerky, ham) and high-fat dairy (butter, whole milk).
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber such as beans and other legumes, vegetables, fruits and whole grains.

Men up to age 50 should aim for 38 grams of fiber in their daily diet. Men 50 or older should aim for 30 grams of fiber in their daily diet. Increase fiber intake slowly to avoid gas and
drink plenty of water.

Foods high in fiberGrams of fiber per ½ cup, cooked% Daily Value*
Split peas8.127
Black beans7.525
Baked beans5.017
Whole-wheat spaghetti3.110

* Percent Daily Value is based on a 30-gram daily recommendation


These recipes were selected because many of their ingredients are associated with reducing the risk for cancer.

Key to abbreviations:

  • c. = cup
  • Tbsp. = tablespoon
  • tsp. = teaspoon
  • oz. = ounce
  • lb. = pound
  • g = gram
  • mg = milligram

Split Pea Soup

split pea soup
Photo Credit:

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 c. chopped celery
1 c. chopped peeled carrots
8 c. vegetable broth
2 tsp. dried leaf marjoram
1½ c. green split peas, dry

Heat oil in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery and carrots. Sauté until vegetables begin to soften, about eight minutes. Add marjoram; stir one minute. Add peas, then broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover pot; simmer soup until vegetables are tender and peas fall apart (about one hour), stirring often.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 260 calories, 5 g fat, 13 g protein, 42 g carbohydrate, 14 g fiber and 220 mg sodium.

Hearty Spicy Bean Chili

Hearty Spicy Bean Chili
Photo Credit:

2 (15-oz.) cans black beans*
2 (15-oz.) cans kidney beans*
2 (15-oz.) cans butter beans*
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (6-oz.) can tomato paste
1 (1.25-oz.) packet reduced-sodium chili seasoning
1 Tbsp. oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
1 small jalapeño, seeds removed and diced (optional)
2 tsp. vegetable bouillon plus 2 c. water

* Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. Heat oil in large pan. Add diced yellow onion, jalapeno and garlic, then sauté until the onions turn clear. Boil 2 cups of water on the stove or in the microwave. Once boiling, add 2 teaspoons of the vegetable bouillon until completely dissolved. Combine all can ingredients into a large slow cooker followed by the onion, garlic and jalapeno mixture, and then the broth. Add the chili seasoning and mix well. Leave slow cooker on high for approximately 45 minutes or until chili reaches a desirable temperature.

Makes 15 servings. Each serving has 200 calories, 2.5 g fat, 11 g protein, 36 g carbohydrates, 10 g fiber and 390 mg sodium.

Southwest Bean Dip

Southwest Bean Dip
Photo Credit:

½ c. olive oil
1/3 c. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
1 lb. Roma tomatoes, diced
1 (15-oz.) can black-eyed peas*
1 (15-oz.) can black beans*
2 c. frozen corn
1 red onion, diced
½ c. green bell pepper, diced
½ c. red bell pepper, diced
1 c. cilantro, chopped
2 Tbsp. sugar

* Drain and rinse beans. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, sugar, white wine vinegar and chili powder. Add tomatoes, black-eyed peas, beans, corn, red onion and bell peppers. Stir to combine. Stir in cilantro. Cover and chill at least one hour or overnight to blend flavors. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 140 calories, 8 g fat, 4 g protein, 16 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber and 50 mg sodium.


See www.ag.ndsu.edu/healthwiseforguys for more information about men’s health.