Part II of Scope Out Your Colon
Making Simple Changes
Lifestyle is yet another determining factor of colorectal cancer, but it is also one factor that is easy to change through simple steps such as diet and increased physical activity.
People who lead an inactive lifestyle void of regular exercise are more at risk for colon cancer as are those who are overweight or obese. The same is true of those who smoke. Studies suggest that smokers are more likely to die from colorectal cancer than those who do not smoke.
Lower Your Risk
You can lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer by managing the risk factors that you can control, like following a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity. Diets high in vegetables and fruits have been linked with lower risk of colon cancer whereas consumption of processed foods and red meats have been linked with a higher risk of developing colon cancer. Some studies have also found that people who take calcium and vitamin D supplements have a lower risk of colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that you eat five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day. Opting for whole grains as opposed to processed or refined grains also aids in a healthy diet.
Avoiding excessive alcohol intake may also help lower your risk of colorectal cancer. The ACS recommends no more than one drink per day for women and two per day for men.
Physical activity is another area that you can control. It also recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity at least five times a week.
Obesity raises the risk of colon cancer in both men and women, but the link seems to be stronger in men. If you are overweight, you can ask your doctor about a weight loss plan that will work for you. The ACS recommends that people try to maintain a healthy weight throughout life by balancing what they eat with physical activity.
One glimmer of hope to counteract the grim statistics to colorectal cancer is that it can often be prevented through regular screening, which can identify precancerous polyps. Talk with your doctor about when screening should begin based on your age and family history of the disease. Although some people should be screened earlier, people of average risk should begin screening at 50. Because most colorectal cancer occurs without symptoms until the disease is advanced, it is important for people to talk with their doctor about the pros and cons of each screening test and how often each test should be given. The simple task of a colonoscopy screening should be perceived as an investment in one's longevity and health. If a colonoscopy can potentially save our lives from a fatal but curable disease, we owe it to ourselves because we are worth it.