What You Should Know About Avoiding Colon Cancer
Colon cancer is a deadly disease. It’s the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths. And yet, the National Colorectal Roundtable estimates that if everyone was screened properly, the number of deaths from colon cancer could be reduced by 230,000! That’s because colon cancer is highly preventable.
No other cancer can be prevented quite as easily as colon cancer. Colon cancer almost always starts as a polyp. Polyps turn into cancer over 10 – 15 years. When a polyp is found and removed, it cannot turn into cancer. There are also several lifestyle changes you can make to reduce the risk of colon cancer. Here is what you should know about avoiding colon cancer.
You need regular colonoscopies if you are 45 or older
Age is one of the main risks of developing polyps and colon cancer. Since there is nothing you can do to change your age, getting colonoscopies at regular intervals is best to avoid colon cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American Cancer Society recommend that people start getting colonoscopies at 45.
Generally, you will only need to get a colonoscopy every 10 years. You will need them more frequently if your doctor finds and removes polyps. If you have 5 – 10 polyps, a large polyp, or certain types of polyps, you may need to have a colonoscopy every 2 – 3 years.
You need earlier and more frequent colonoscopies if you are at higher risk
People who have a higher risk of developing cancer need to start getting colonoscopies at a younger age. They may also need to have a colonoscopy more frequently. Because they can develop cancer more readily, this higher frequency helps catch cancer before it forms or early enough to have a great prognosis for cure.
A family history of colon cancer, being black, or being an Ashkenazi jew means that you have a higher risk of developing colon cancer. Also, people that have been diagnosed with an inflammatory intestinal condition like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease are at a higher risk.
You may not be able to change your inherent risk of colon cancer, but you can be proactive in getting checked for pre-cancerous or cancerous growths before it’s too late.
Quitting smoking will reduce your risk of developing colon cancer
Smokers have a higher risk of developing colon cancer and other cancers. Currently, smokers have a 60% increased risk of colon cancer compared to non-smokers. Quitting can reduce that risk to just 20%. Quitting smoking can be a very difficult task, but important for your long-term health. There are many resources to help, like Smokefree.gov.
Limit red meat and processed meat
Eating a lot of red meat and processed meats like hot dogs and deli meat is linked with colon cancer. Keep those items as special treats and fill your diet with lean meats and unprocessed foods to decrease your colon cancer risk.
Increase your fiber
Fiber is a vital ingredient for a healthy intestinal tract. There is a link between eating more fiber and reducing the risk of developing polyps and colon cancer. Current recommendations are for 25 grams of fiber for women and 38 grams of fiber for men. You can meet that amount by choosing vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains.
Stay physically active
Physical activity decreases colon cancer risk (and the risk of other cancers). The recommended amount of activity is 150 minutes per week. That amount can be met by going on a brisk, 30-minute walk five times a week.
To see even more benefits, add strength exercises twice weekly. It doesn’t have to be a full weight lifting session at the gym – gardening, yoga, and yard work count.
Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of colon cancer, especially in men. A healthy weight is defined as 18.5 to 25 (calculate your BMI here). While it may not be easy, losing weight can help you avoid developing colon cancer and prevent many other diseases as well.
You will likely lose weight by following the advice in the three bullet points above – limit red meat and processed meat, increase your fiber intake, and stay physically active.
Don’t wait to take action to avoid colon cancer – start following these healthy habits and schedule your colonoscopy today!