Health Care Lifestyle

Five Ways to Lower Your Risk of Colon Cancer

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Over 100,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, a cancer of the colon or rectum, each year. Though it has typically affected older adults in years past, colorectal cancer rates are currently rising among younger generations, making it as important as ever for you to know how to lower your risks at any age.

Ross Hempel, MD, a colorectal surgeon at AdventHealth Medical Group Colorectal Surgery at Port Orange, explains five ways you can lower your risk of colon cancer.

  1. Exercise Regularly

If you live a sedentary lifestyle, spending much of your day sitting at a desk or on the couch, statistics show you have a higher likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, individuals who engaged in regular physical activity reduced their risk of colon cancer by as much as 19%.

“To lower your risk, we recommend at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity,” says Dr. Hempel. “And if you’re just starting to navigate how an exercise routine can fit into your lifestyle, it’s OK to start slow — the important thing is getting started, and you can then work your way up as you go.”

  1. Follow a Nutritious Diet

“A healthy diet helps support your colon health,” shares Dr. Hempel. “Aim to eat foods high in fiber, like fruits, vegetables and whole grains to help prevent constipation and keep your colon running smoothly.”

Do your best to limit or remove red meat (beef, lamb, or pork) and processed meats, like hotdogs and lunchmeat, from your diet, as many studies have shown that these foods have been linked to an increased likelihood of developing colon cancer.

In addition to food, it’s important to note that heavy alcohol consumption is associated with higher risks of colon cancer, making it wise to minimize your intake of alcoholic beverages or avoid them altogether.

  1. Get Screened for Colon Cancer

Because it might be difficult to spot any early warning signs, cancer screenings are essential in preventing colorectal cancer or catching it early.

The American Cancer Society recommends adults begin screening for colorectal cancer at age 45 or earlier if they have any of the following:

  • A family history of colorectal cancer
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis

“There are a few ways you can screen for colon cancer — the most obvious, perhaps, being with a colonoscopy,” shares Dr. Hempel. “In addition to a colonoscopy, your doctor may recommend an annual stool test to detect blood or antibody levels in your stool.”

After reviewing your initial colonoscopy, your doctor will determine your current risk for colorectal cancer. If no polyps are found in your colon and you aren’t in a higher-risk category, you likely won’t need another colonoscopy for ten years.

  1. Maintain a Healthy Weight

According to the National Cancer Institute, people experiencing obesity are 1.3 times as likely to develop colorectal cancer.

And while nutrition and exercise play important roles in weight management, other factors, including adequate sleep, staying hydrated and managing your stress levels, can help lead to a healthy weight as well.

  1. Stop Smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for colon cancer. People who smoke tend to develop more colon polyps than individuals who don’t smoke. And while these polyps are not inherently cancerous, they do have the potential to develop into cancer. Ask your doctor about tools to help you quit smoking.

Living Your Whole Life

Making healthy choices not only helps reduce your risk of colon cancer but also helps encourage a longer, healthier life. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Hempel to further discuss steps you can take to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.

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