Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in women and men combined and the second leading cause of cancer related deaths in the United States. However, there is good news: it can be cured with early detection. Even before detection there are things you can do to reduce your risk. First, recognize high risk factors. There are some you can control and some you cannot control. Second, take steps to reduce those risk factors you can control. Third, get screened and follow up.
High Risk Factors
- Age: those 50 and older are at higher risk
- Race: African Americans and Eastern European descent are at higher risk
- Personal or family history of colon cancer: persons with history of colon polyps may be at higher risk for colon cancer and those with a parent or sibling who have had colon cancer are at increased risk
- Personal history of inflammatory intestinal conditions: disorders such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease are at increased risk for colon cancer;
- Lifestyle Factors: obesity, being sedentary, diets low in fiber and high in fat, smoking, and heavy alcohol use can each increase a persons risk for colon cancer.
Do’s and Dont’s of Risk Reduction You are in control! Take measures to reduce your risk and get healthier in the process.
- Diet: Do eat diets high in fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These provide vitamins, anti oxidants and fiber that may play a role in cancer prevention.
- Exercise: Do exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days a week. If you have been inactive, start slowly and work up to 30 minutes per day. If you have other health problems clear the type of exercise you prefer with your doctor.
- Habits: Don’t smoke or use tobacco products and Don’t drink alcohol in excess. If you choose to drink alcohol, studies suggest not more than 1 drink per day for women.
Screening: Current recommendations for screening are to begin with colonoscopy at age 50. Because African Americans are at a slightly higher risk, screening should begin at age 45.