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5 Simple Ways to Lower Your Colon Cancer Risk

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Colorectal cancer, also referred to as colon cancer, is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. It’s also one of the most preventable types of cancers, says Mon Health Oncologist Vaibhav Verma.

“Colorectal cancer can be one of the most preventable and treatable cancers—if caught early,” said Dr. Verma. “Taking steps to prevent the disease, as well as having an understanding of symptoms and risk factors, will go far in lowering your risk.”

Colorectal cancer is cancer that develops in the colon or rectum. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women will develop colon or rectal cancer at some point during their lifetime.

5 ways to lower your risk of colon cancer

While there’s no surefire way to prevent colorectal cancer, Dr. Verma says changing the risk factors that are under your control can make a big impact. Five small steps you can take to lower your risk include:

  1. Getting screened. Screening is the number one way to prevent colon cancer, according to Dr. Verma. Early-stage colorectal cancer can be symptomless, and polyps revealed during a screening are often the first telling sign of developing cancer. Growing trends suggest testing should begin well before the previously suggested age of 50. “The number of people younger than 50 who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer is on the rise,” says Dr. Verma. “New recommendations suggest yearly screenings beginning no later than age 45—and perhaps even earlier if you have a family history of this cancer.”
  2. Eating well. Ongoing studies suggests a healthy diet is linked with a lower colorectal cancer risk. Dr. Verma recommends consuming plenty of vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich whole grains and lean, unprocessed sources of protein.
  3. Staying active. Studies show physical activity may reduce colon cancer risk by up to 25%. Staying active, in addition to eating well, can help to maintain a healthy weight and lower your risk for colorectal cancer. Dr. Verma recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of activity per day.
  4. Avoiding alcohol and tobacco. Tobacco-related cancers are well documented, but recent studies have also linked frequent alcohol use to cancers of the colon and rectum, according to the ACS. Dr. Verma recommends taking steps to eliminate all tobacco products and, at the very least, try to limit consumption of alcohol to a minimal amount.
  5. Knowing your risk factors. Talk to your doctor if you have one or more risk factors for colon cancer. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, for example, your risk may be higher and you may need to be screened earlier than someone with an average risk.

Risk factors for colon cancer

According to the CDC, there are certain risk factors that may increase your chances of developing colorectal cancer. They include:

  • Having colorectal polyps
  • Having ammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis
  • Having familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP), hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer or other related genetic syndromes
  • Being over age 50
  • Having a family history of colorectal cancer

“If you have one or more risk factors for colon cancer, tell your doctor—he or she may recommend you visit for more frequent screenings,” says Dr. Verma.

Learn more about Dr. Verma.