Recent studies link certain lifestyles, behaviors and other exposures to colon cancer. Called risk factors, these areas of your daily life are often controllable. That means you experience a lower risk of colon cancer when you reduce your risk factors for the disease. Among these risk factors are alcohol, smoking and certain medications.
Alcohol and Colon Cancer
Multiple studies indicate increased risk for colorectal cancer among people who frequently drink alcohol. This is particularly true for men who drink. A good way to lower your risk of colon or rectal cancers is to drink less alcohol.
Smoking As a Colorectal Cancer Risk Factor
Long term smoking increases your risk of colorectal cancers, cancers starting either in your colon or rectum. In fact, not smoking reduces your risk of several types of cancer and other health conditions. If you struggle to quit smoking but want better health and lower risk of colon cancer or rectal cancer, talk to your doctor for the help you need.
Supplements and Medications Increasing Colorectal Cancer Risk
Medications and dietary supplements may raise or lower your colorectal cancer risk.
Daily Multi-Vitamins and Folic Acid
Some people believe taking daily multi-vitamins like those with folic acid improves your colorectal cancer risk. But no proof of this exists. Some studies indicate that folic acid actually feeds growth of existing tumors.
Vitamin D from sun exposure, foods or dietary supplements may reduce risk of colorectal cancer. But more studies must confirm or deny these theories.
Even low levels of dietary calcium may increase your colorectal cancer risk. But some studies suggest increased dietary calcium lowers your risk. Other scientists believe combining increased calcium and vitamin D helps reduce your risk, with the vitamin D helping your body absorb more calcium. Future studies will provide greater understanding of the role of calcium and vitamin D in colorectal cancer.
Some studies link high magnesium diets to lower colorectal cancer risk in women.
Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
According to many studies, NSAIDs reduce risk for colorectal cancer and polyps. This lower risk factor points to regular use of aspirin or other NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen as possibly having cancer prevention benefits.
Still, NSAIDs cause harmful side effects like stomach irritation, ulcers and bleeding.
Hormone Replacement Therapy in Women
Women using estrogen and progesterone as hormone replacement therapy after menopause possibly experience a lower risk of colorectal cancer. But when doctors find cancers in these women, the cancer frequently is more advanced.
For guidance about reducing your risk of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor.