Colon and rectal cancer combined are the third most-common cancer in the United States. To put it in perspective, about one in 21 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Even more serious, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death. But there are preventative measures that can be taken. Here are a few tips from the Cleveland Clinic’s Jeremy Lipman, M.D., regarding colorectal cancer prevention:
Like most cancers, the most important thing you can do to lower your risk is stop smoking. This is really hard, but you doctor has lots of tools available to help you. Get help and stop. Today.
Eating a lot of red meat like beef increases your risk. And having more than one alcoholic drink per day can increase your chances. You could reduce your risk by eating a lot of fiber, as well as fruits and vegetables.
If you’re overweight or don’t engage in a lot of activity each day, your likelihood of getting cancer is much higher than people who are active. If you can do 20 minutes of medium-level exercise daily — a brisk walk, a slow bike ride or even gardening — you can reduce your risk as much as 25 to 50 percent.
There are a number of ways to get screened for colorectal cancer, but a colonoscopy is the only one that can help prevent cancer from even starting. Colorectal cancer doesn’t just appear suddenly. It starts as a small growth on your colon called a polyp that rarely causes symptoms. If left alone over many years, polyps can grow into cancer. The only way to know it’s there is to look.
The good news is that if a polyp is detected during a colonoscopy, it can usually be removed. Once it’s removed, it can’t hurt you anymore. If you’re 50 years old, it’s time to get a colonoscopy. If everything looks good and you have no polyps, you won’t need another one for 10 years.
Up to 85 percent of colorectal cancers could be prevented or successfully treated if everyone who is eligible for a colonoscopy got screened.