Colon cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, is one of the most common and deadly cancers in the United States. Colon cancers begin as benign polyps in the colon or rectum and can take years to develop into cancer.
The prevalence and seriousness of this condition leads many to wonder, “what are some of the best tactics I can use to help prevent both colon polyps and colon cancer?”
Be Aware of Your Risks
Many adults are at average risk for colon polyps and colon cancer, but others are at a greater risk. Family history is a primary factor, and unfortunately there isn’t anything a person can do to overcome their genetic predisposition to colon conditions, though the exact relationship between you and a family member that has been diagnosed with colon cancer can make a small difference:
- If your parents or siblings have a history of polyps or colon cancer, you have a significantly higher risk than most.
- If your grandparents or your aunts and uncles had polyps or colon cancer, there is a lesser degree of risk.
- If you are an older adult then your age also becomes a factor that increases your risk to potentially develop colon polyps or colon cancer.
Do Not Skip Your Screenings
If you fit into one of these high risk segments of the population, the best way to prevent polyps (or their growth) and avoid colon cancer is to routinely complete a colonoscopy. The American Cancer Society recommends having a colonoscopy at age 45 if you are of average risk.
Regular screenings as recommended by your gastroenterologist, or at least every 10 years, can detect polyps and remove them before they have the ability to develop into cancer. Other, more simple screenings can be done annually or every 5 years.
Make Some Changes in Your Life
Medical studies are useful to determine certain risk factors, but are only worthwhile if they include a certain number of participants and are conducted over a sufficient amount of time. Several studies have been implemented to shed more light on what each person can do to assist with early prevention of colon polyps and colon cancer. No study is absolute, but they can provide some guidance.
Regardless of your risk assessment, there are some proactive behaviors and lifestyle changes to help reduce your risk. A majority of studies about colorectal cancer suggest that individuals should begin with the following preventative measures:
- Eat more colorful veggies and fruits. It is especially beneficial for your colon if you incorporate peppers, carrots, oranges, and strawberries into your diet, as these each help to clear debris from inside of the colon. Vegetables like cabbage and brussels sprouts have cancer fighting chemicals.
- Meats and fats can increase your risk of colon cancer, so consequently, reducing meat and saturated fats can only help reduce your risk. Get in the habit of reading product labels to stay mindful of just how much you consume each day.
- Calcium is a bonus. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are all excellent sources of calcium as are seafood, shellfish, and leafy greens.
- Many studies have shown that smokers have significantly more cases of colon cancer than non-smokers. Enough said.
- Engage in regular amounts of activity and maintain a healthy weight.
- Taking a low dose aspirin can be helpful, but check with one of our gastroenterology consultants before starting this particular regimen.
- Reduce alcohol consumption.
- Consuming vitamin D in a multivitamin tablet can reduce your risk of colon cancer by one third. You can also get outside and soak up the sun for approximately 10 minutes each day to get your vitamin D fix.
Pay attention to your own risk factors, make some lifestyle changes, and most importantly, get screened if you wish to avoid colon polyps and colon cancer in your future.
Contact Philadelphia Gastroenterology Consultants right away if you are due for a colorectal screening. Both new and established patients may request an appointment by calling our office at (215) 742-9900.