Colon cancer strikes hundreds of thousands of people all over the world each year, mostly in the developed world. While colorectal cancer has a 65% survival rate, avoidance is still much more preferable to survival. Here are some things you can do to avoid colorectal cancer:
- Eat a high fiber diet. A diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains benefits many areas of your health, but especially your digestive system. Fiber helps move material through your intestines and colon and encourages complete evacuation of bowel movements. If you are eating a high fiber diet and still suffer from occasional constipation, add a serving of bulk fiber supplement that you can dissolve in your juice or coffee.
- Get some exercise. Doctors aren’t sure why, but a sedentary lifestyle is associated with colon polyps, which are growths in the colon that can become cancerous over time. If you get 30 minutes of exercise 3-4 days per week, you decrease your chances of developing these polyps significantly.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, there are many complications ahead of you, and colorectal cancer may be one of them. Obesity is a risk factor for colorectal cancer that can be eliminated with proper diet and exercise (see the two items above).
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking dramatically increases your risk for all forms of cancer, and colorectal cancer is no different. Smokers are 18% more likely than nonsmokers to develop colorectal cancer.
- Be selective about meat. Red meat consumption is linked with colorectal cancer, though doctors aren’t sure why. There is an even stronger link between colorectal cancer and diets heavy in processed, salted, smoked, or cured meats such as bacon, sausage, and hot dogs. Limit your intake of red meat products to 4-6 times per week.
- Examine your use of alcohol. Colorectal cancer is strongly linked to alcohol usage that equates to 3 or more drinks per day. Limit your alcohol consumption to one drink per day, and if you can’t, talk with a doctor about your difficulty limiting your alcohol intake.
- Get screened. Once you turn 50 years old, you should have your first colonoscopy. A colonoscopy allows a doctor to examine the inside of the colon at an almost microscopic level. If you’ve developed polyps, the doctor can remove them and biopsy them if necessary. After your first colonoscopy, your doctor will advise you to have colonoscopies at least every ten years from that point forward.