What can I do to reduce my risk of colorectal cancer?

Dr. Kevin J. Soden, MD
Family Medicine
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women combined. Every year in the United States there are approximately 100,000 new cases of colon cancer and 40,000 new cases of rectal cancer. The overall lifetime risk for developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 19 for men and 1 in 20 for women. The good news…when found early, this type of cancer is highly curable. You can markedly reduce your risk of dying from this type of cancer by changing your lifestyle and getting preventive screening.
Persons with a family history of colorectal cancer, those with a history of polyps in the colon and those over age 50 are at greatest risk for colorectal cancer. Results of a Danish study published in the British Medical Journal in 2010 showed that leading a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce a person’s risk of colorectal cancer. Here are the healthy lifestyle behaviors that proved beneficial:
• Eating a diet high in fiber, fruits and vegetables and low in red meat
  and processed foods
• Avoiding smoking
• Exercising 30 minutes a day
• Limiting alcohol to seven drinks a week for women and 14 drinks a
  week for men
• Reducing weight
Preventive cancer screening is an important tool to catch precursors to cancer or cancer in it’s earliest stages so that they can be treated successfully. Colorectal cancers often begin as polyps. By removing them, cancer is prevented. Perhaps the easiest and simplest way to screen for cancer is to have your doctor check your stools annually for blood. In addition, beginning at age 50, most people should have a colonoscopy every 10 years to screen for cancer.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.