Five Ways to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

No one likes to think about cancer. But especially when it comes to colorectal cancer, giving it some thought could be a lifesaver.

Colorectal cancer, which affects the colon or rectum, is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S.

The good news is that it is one of the most detectable cancers and early treatment is very effective. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), regular screenings and some lifestyle changes can help prevent colorectal cancer.

While there are some risk factors, like age and family history, which you can’t do anything about, here are five things you can do to reduce your risk:

1.  Eat the right kind of diet. A diet high in red meat and processed meats can increase colorectal cancer risk. On the other hand, diets high in fruits and veggies have been linked with decreased risk. The ACS recommends eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily, limiting consumption of red and processed meats, and choosing whole grains whenever possible.

2.  Get adequate exercise. Physical inactivity can increase your chance of developing colorectal cancer—but getting a move on can reverse that risk. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week, says the ACS, and more activity is even better.

3.  Watch your weight. Obesity increases the risk of colorectal cancer, so try to maintain a healthy weight through diet and exercise.

4.  Control those vices. Long-term smokers are more likely to develop colorectal cancer, says the ACS, and the heavy use of alcohol has also been linked to colorectal cancer. Kick the smoking habit and limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

5.  Get recommended screenings. Colorectal cancer almost always develops when polyps (small, abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum become cancerous. When caught in its earliest stages, colorectal cancer can be treated very effectively. What’s more, when polyps that can turn into cancer are found and removed early, colorectal cancer can actually be prevented.

Screening is important because the disease can develop without symptoms and most people who get it do not have known risk factors. Still, if you have a personal or family history of colon polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, you are at a higher risk. Other factors include older age, a history of other cancers and having diabetes. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 50 and older get screened. Having your doctor test for blood in your stool or getting a colonoscopy can prevent up to 60 percent of colorectal cancer deaths.
Free Colorectal Screening Kit

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. At Gwinnett Medical Center, we’ve joined with more than 650 organizations across the country in embracing the shared goal of reaching 80 percent screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. If you’re 50 or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life. For a free colorectal screening kit, call GMC at 678-312-5000 and select option one.

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