Reducing Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

General Guidelines

Eat a Healthful Diet

Diets that are high in fat (particularly fat from animal sources, such as meat) and low in fruits and vegetables increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Until recently, it was believed that a high-fiber, low-fat diet provided protection against colorectal cancer. However, recent research indicates that this type of diet, while healthful, may not provide the desired protective effect. Nevertheless, doctors continue to recommend a well-balanced, low-fat diet containing fruits and vegetables, as there are significant health benefits to this type of diet.

For more information on eating a healthful diet, click here.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Even moderate exercise (30 minutes per day) is beneficial.

For more information on starting a regular exercise program, click here.

Avoid Obesity

Obesity has been found to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, particularly when the weight is distributed in the waist, rather than on hips and thighs. Doctors recommend losing excess weight to reduce colorectal cancer risk.

For more information on achieving and maintaining a healthful weight, click here.

Stop Smoking

To reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, stop smoking. Smokers are 30%-40% more likely to die of colorectal cancer than nonsmokers.

For more information on quitting smoking, click here.

Use Alcohol in Moderation

Regular use of alcohol among smokers and people with high-fat diets appears to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. However, there does not seem to be an increased risk among people who drink alcohol, but eat diets high in fiber.

Know Your Genetic Predispositon to Colorectal Cancer

Colon cancer can run in families. If more than one close relative has developed colon cancer before age 60, you may be at increased risk. You may also be at risk if anyone in your family has been diagnosed with familial adenomaous polypolsis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).

If you have a strong family history of the disease, the best prevention is by having regular colonoscopies. Current guidelines suggest that the first screening should be at age 40 or at an age 10 years younger than the first family member who developed colon cancer, whichever is younger. After an initial colonoscopy, your physician will recommend repeat colonoscopies depending on the findings.

Be Aware of Conditions That Are Associated With Increased Risk of Colon Cancer

Some forms of colon cancer have a strong hereditary basis. If you have a strong family history of colon cancer or familial polyposis of the colon, you are at increased risk of colon cancer and may wish to explore how best to manage that risk with your physician. Likewise, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s disease, also increases risk. Good management of IBD is critical to avoiding the development of colon cancer.

References:

National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/.



Last reviewed April 2007 by Barbara Harty-Golder, MD, JD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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