Colon cancer is one of the most common, and yet preventable, cancers. To help protect yourself and your loved ones from the disease, follow these ten colon cancer prevention tips.
- Go to a doctor if you have any colon cancer symptoms.
Usually, colon cancer doesn’t have any symptoms. However, in the later stages, symptoms may include thin stools, cramping, unexplained weight loss, and bloody stools.
- If you’re 50 or older, schedule a colon cancer screening.
Then actually go to the appointment. More than 90 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are 50 or older and the average age of diagnosis is 64. Research indicates that by age 50, one in four people has polyps (colon cancer precursors). Getting screened is an excellent colon cancer prevention method.
- Eat a balanced diet.
Diets high in fat and cholesterol (especially from animal sources) have been linked to increased colon cancer risk. High-fiber diets, however, have shown a protective effect.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
All other things equal, obese men seem to be more at risk for colon cancer than obese women. Also, certain body types seem to influence risk more than others. Studies indicate that extra fat in the waist (an apple shape) increases colon cancer risk more than extra fat in the thighs or hips (a pear shape).
- Maintain an active lifestyle.
Research indicates that exercising can reduce colon cancer risk by as much as 40 percent. Exercise also tends to reduce the incidence of other risk factors for colon cancer, like obesity and diabetes.
- Consider genetic counseling.
People who carry genetic mutations linked to hereditary colon cancer are the most likely to develop the disease. If someone in your family has FAP or HNPCC, or if you’re of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, you should seriously consider adding genetic counseling to your colon cancer prevention plan.
- Learn your family medical history.
Did you know your family medical history can impact your chances of developing colon cancer? When discussing colon cancer prevention with your doctor, remember to mention if family members have had polyps or colon cancer. Other cancers (such as stomach, liver, and bone) may also be relevant.
- Talk to a doctor about your personal medical history.
As you may have guessed, discussing your own medical history is extremely important when it comes to colon cancer prevention. Sometimes we feel like doctors aren’t interested in what we have to say, so we try to answer their questions as quickly and succinctly as possible. But it’s alright – and advisable – to talk about your health history. Of particular concern are polyps, certain cancers, and chronic inflammation of the bowel – all of which can increase the risk of developing colon cancer.
- Don’t smoke.
Yes, it’s a risk factor for colon cancer too. Smoking increases your risk for two main reasons. First, inhaled or swallowed tobacco smoke transports carcinogens to the colon. Second, tobacco use appears to increase polyp size.
- Reduce radiation exposure.
Is radiation really relevant to colon cancer prevention? The short answer is yes. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, colon cancer has been caused by doses of about 1,000 millisieverts. So, what the heck is a millisievert and how do you keep from racking up 1,000 of them?
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“What is Colorectal Cancer?” Colon Cancer Alliance. Accessed 27 Jan. 2007 [http://www.ccalliance.org/about/disease/whatiscrc.html].