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Lowering Your Chances of Colorectal Cancer

Lowering Your Chances of Colorectal Cancer

What is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer, also referred to as colon cancer or rectal cancer, begins in the colon or rectum. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer among both men and women in the United States. While this statistic may be alarming, early detection can help to increase the chances of survival significantly. Here’s what you need to know.

Who is at Risk of Colorectal Cancer

When it comes to colorectal cancer, some risk factors can be controlled while others cannot. Knowing both of these risk factors is key to helping you lower your risk.

Risk Factors That Can Be Controlled

  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Living a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Eating a poor diet.
  • Smoking tobacco.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol.

Uncontrollable Risk Factors

  • Age - adults over 50 are more at risk of developing colorectal cancer.

  • Personal history of colorectal polyps.

  • Personal history of IBD (inflammatory bowel disease).

  • Family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.

  • Inherited genes or mutations such as Lynch syndrome.

Ways to Reduce the Risk of Colorectal Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control recommends that people over the age of 50 get screened regularly for colorectal cancer. Regular screenings are the best way to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. In addition to routine screening, it’s essential to pay attention to the controllable risk factors noted above. Adopting these healthy habits can help to reduce your risk:

  • Add fiber-rich foods to your diet (lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans).
  • Eat more fruits and non-starchy vegetables.
  • Avoid foods that are preserved with sodium nitrate (bacon, salami, hot dogs and other lunchmeats).
  • Limit your consumption of red meat.
  • Keep a healthy weight.
  • Adopt a regular exercise routine.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Quit smoking.

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

The following are some of the signs and symptoms of colon cancer:

  • Change in bowel habits such as persistent diarrhea or constipation.
  • Changes in stool consistency.
  • Abdominal discomfort and pain that may include gas or cramps.
  • The feeling that the bowel isn’t completely empty.
  • Feeling fatigued and weak.
  • Weight loss.

While it’s impossible to prevent colorectal cancer entirely, by knowing the facts and adopting a healthy lifestyle, your risk of developing this disease can be lowered.