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Reducing Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer

May 22, 2017

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There is no clear means of preventing colorectal cancer, sometimes called colon cancer or rectal cancer. But you can reduce your risk for the disease by changing your controllable risk factors.

There is no clear means of preventing colorectal cancer, sometimes called colon cancer or rectal cancer. But you can reduce your risk for the disease by changing your controllable risk factors.

Screening for Colorectal Cancer

Screening involves looking for cancer or pre-cancerous signs in people not showing any symptoms. One of the best methods of preventing colorectal cancer is regular screening.

Colorectal cancer takes about 10 to 15 years to develop from the time first polyps form from abnormal cells. Surgeons can remove polyps found early through regular screening. This often stops the polyps from turning into cancer or gives people with early colorectal cancer a better chance of being cured.

Screen is most effective when started at age 50, for people without higher risk of colorectal cancer. Sometimes doctors recommend screening starting at a younger age, particularly in people with a strong family history of colorectal cancer.

If your family history includes colorectal polyps or other cancers, genetic counseling can determine likelihood of a family cancer syndrome. Your doctor can also talk to you about your risk for colon or rectal cancer.

Role of Body Weight, Physical Activity and Diet in Colorectal Cancer Risk

Body weight, diet and physical activity levels may play a role in colorectal cancer risk. This means healthy body weight, diet and activity may lower your chances of this type of cancer.

Your Weight and Colorectal Cancer

Excess weight or obesity increases colorectal cancer risk in both genders but men seem to experience greater risk for this cancer by being overweight. Colon and rectal cancers link to belly fat. This means keeping your weight at a healthy level and gaining midsection weight gain likely lower your risk.

Activity and Colorectal Cancer

Physical exercise and a healthy level of activity reduce your risk of polyps and colorectal cancer. Activities that make you breathe deeply, moderate activity, lowers your risk. Studies show that vigorous activity likely benefit you even more. This means you reduce colorectal cancer risk by increasing your activity level, even if you already maintain healthy activity at a moderate level.

Healthy Eating and Colorectal Cancer

When your diet contains a high level of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, you reduce your colorectal cancer risk, according to recent studies. A diet low in red and processed meats also provides reduced risk. Many studies tie processed meats like lunch meats, sausages, hot dogs and canned meats to higher risk for colon and rectal cancers. The same is true for beef, pork and lamb.

High fiber diets, particularly those containing whole grains, likely lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

Arizona Center for Cancer Care