National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: Learn how to lower your risk

March 31, 2013

This is a guest post by Natural Horizons Wellness Centers.

Colon cancer is a silent disease responsible for more than 50,000 deaths in the United States every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is the third most common cancer in both genders, and although men are slightly more likely to develop the disease than women, both men and women are at risk for developing the cancer. As with any cancer, early detection provides the greatest prognosis, though there are many ways of reducing the probability of developing the disease altogether. While you cannot change certain risk factors, such as your age or family history of cancer, you can take some matters into your own hands.

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Lifestyle Changes

According to the National Cancer Institute, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity are leading contributors to elevated risk for developing colon cancer. To reduce risk, stop smoking and limit alcohol consumption to fewer than three drinks per day. Introducing a healthy and balanced diet, as well as incorporating regular physical activity in to daily life can significantly reduce the chances of developing polyps and colon cancer.

Helpful Assets

Research has shown that consumption of fiber and aspirin can reduce the chances of developing colon cancer significantly. According to BMJ Publishing Group, increasing consumption of fiber from whole wheat and whole-grain sources can reduce the chances of developing colon cancer by as much as 10 percent for every 10 grams of fiber eaten per day. The National Cancer Institute also reports that ingesting aspirin daily for five years can reduce the chances of developing colon cancer as well. However, it is important to speak with your doctor before beginning any new health regimen — including increased consumption of aspirin.

Cancer Screenings

Colonoscopies are life-saving tools used to detect the earliest stages of cancer. The CDC reports that 60 percent of all colon cancer-related deaths could be avoided with routine colon cancer screenings. It is recommended that all men and women over the age of 50 begin undergoing regular colonoscopies once every 10 years to detect the presence of polyps, which form from abnormal cells within the colon. Although these polyps are non-cancerous, they may evolve into colon cancer over a 10 to 15-year period of time. Doctors can identify these polyps and remove them all within the same screening procedure. It is important to note that if you are not yet age 50, but have a family history of colon cancer, your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings. Other colon cancer screenings include fecal occult blood testing and flexible sigmoidoscopy.

Considerations

Colon cancer is most easily treated before it ever exists. It is estimated that colon cancer-related deaths could drop to 20,000 per year if everyone undergoes routine colon cancer screenings beginning at age 50. These preventive measures combined with changes to lifestyle habits have the potential to minimize the prevalence of the disease within the U.S. If you are over the age of 50 or have a family history of colon cancer, take the opportunity to speak with your doctor about your risks during this year’s National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It could save your life.

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