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Preventing Colon Cancer: Tips For Reducing Your Risk

March 4, 2022
Two Men Exercising Outdoors

Colorectal cancer can develop in the colon or the rectum, and the majority of cases develop gradually from precancerous polyps. The American Cancer Society estimates that colon cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in the U.S. If you are wondering how to prevent colon cancer completely, there is no failsafe method. However, there are many steps you can take and lifestyle factors you can manage to help reduce your risk of developing this disease.

Make Time For Exercise

Increasing your physical activity may help reduce your risk of colon cancer. Whether you choose swimming, jogging, sports, or another form of fitness, you should aim to exercise for at least 30 minutes each day. If you have not been exercising, start slow and build up to half an hour. If you have asthma or another chronic condition, talk with your physician about how to practice a safe exercise regimen.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

If you are overweight or obese, you may be at higher risk of getting colon or rectal cancer. Talk with your healthcare provider about safe ways to achieve a healthy body weight. If you are already at a healthy weight, proper nutrition and regular exercise can help you maintain. Every patient is different, so talk to your primary care provider if you have concerns or questions about your weight, your risk factors, or how to best adjust your lifestyle.

Eat A Balanced Diet

While more research is needed on the connection between diet and colon cancer risk, many medical experts recommend a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in these foods may be a factor in cancer prevention. Johns Hopkins Medicine recommends reducing your consumption of certain foods, including:

  • Fast food, which is high in sodium and calories
  • Processed meats, such as deli meats, hot dogs, and pepperoni
  • Red meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork

Ask a physician if there are other foods you should avoid or include in your regular diet.

Practice Healthy Habits

If you are a smoker, consider quitting. According to the American Cancer Society, this is another way to lower your risk of colon cancer. Longtime smokers are more likely to develop colon or rectal cancer than patients who do not smoke. Quitting smoking also is good for your cardiovascular health. Your healthcare provider can connect you with smoking-cessation resources for assistance.

Alcohol use also is linked with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, so try to reduce or eliminate your alcohol consumption. For those who drink, doing so in moderation often is recommended (barring any other health concerns). The American Cancer Society also recommends no more than one alcoholic drink per day for women and two for men.

Get Screened For Colon Cancer

A colon cancer screening can detect and remove polyps before they develop into cancer. Many patients think a colon cancer screening is not necessary until they reach their 50s. However, the American Cancer Society now recommends that individuals with average risk begin screenings at age 45. If you are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer, a primary care provider may recommend evaluations at an even earlier age. Risk factors may include:

  • Chronic inflammatory conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis
  • History of colon polyps or colorectal cancer
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Inherited syndromes, including familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)

Common screening methods include colonoscopy and stool testing. During a colonoscopy, your physician can remove polyps from your colon. Healthcare providers recommend the best type of test for each patient based on their personal health history. For more information about cancer and screenings, visit the health library at Richmond University Medical Center.

Find Out More About Lowering Your Risk For Colon Cancer

Serving patients throughout Staten Island, New York, Richmond University Medical Center offers comprehensive oncology services, including screenings and colonoscopies. If you are at age 45 or older, talk with your physician about scheduling a colorectal cancer screening. To learn more, contact us today.