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Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer

  • Category: General Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Matt Gougler
Reduce Your Risk  of Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. For those in their senior years, the statistics are particularly concerning. In fact, studies show that nearly 60 percent of colon cancer patients are age 70 or older, and the highest percentage of colon cancer deaths occur to those in the 75 to 84 age range.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and ATRIO Health Plans is working to increase awareness – particularly among older adults – that colon cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer if detected early. There also are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

Reduce Your Risk

Some colon cancer risks are beyond your control, including: a personal or family history of polyps in the colon, rectum, or both; and having Lynch syndrome – an inherited gene mutation that causes polyps to develop in the colon, rectum or both.

While there's no guarantee of prevention, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing colon cancer:

  • Get screened. Getting screened to detect polyps in the colon or rectum is the most important step you can take because polyps can be removed before developing into cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing; sigmoidoscopy; or colonoscopy for men and women between the ages of 50 and 75.
  • Move more. Although being physically active won't completely shield you from a colon cancer diagnosis, studies have shown that those who live sedentary lifestyles are at a greater risk of developing this disease compared to adults who remain physically active as they age. The goal is 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily.
  • Watch your weight. Researchers have concluded that individuals who are overweight or obese have higher incidence rates of colon cancer than adults who consistently maintain a healthy weight. It's also been found that men with a high body mass index (BMI) are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A cornerstone of maintaining a healthy weight is eating a healthy diet. If older adults are not already doing so, they should switch to a nutritious diet with lean proteins, fresh fruits, and nutrient-rich vegetables. Nutritionists also recommend avoiding red meat, processed food (think hot dogs and deli meat), and making water your primary drink of choice.
  • Minimize alcohol. Studies have shown that eliminating or reducing alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of colon cancer. Recommendations call for no more than one drink per day; preferably a glass of red wine, which may contain heart-healthy antioxidants.
  • Stop smoking. Not only does smoking increase the risk of lung cancer, but it's also linked to colon and other digestive cancers. There's no upside to smoking, and there's no time like the present to quit.

By taking these steps, you'll reduce your risk of developing colon cancer and you'll improve your health overall. That's a win-win.