March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, but our colon health is something we should focus on year-round.
There are several factors that impact your colon health, but only 5-10% of colon cancers care caused by a heritable mutation. Unfortunately, you can’t control your genetic make-up, or these other risk factors:
• History of poor colon health
• Inflammatory bowel disorders
• Family history of colon health problems.
The two risk factors you can control – lifestyle and diet – will have the biggest impact on your colon health. Inactivity, obesity, smoking, and heavy alcohol use are all linked to a higher incidence of colon cancer, as is a diet high in red meat, processed meat, and fat.
So what can you do to prevent colon cancer?
According to Cancer.gov, obesity contributes to almost 90,000 new cases of cancer every year. A high Body Mass Index (BMI) is strongly associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. It’s suggested that if adults reduced their BMI by just 1% – about two pounds – we could avoid as many as 100,000 new cancer cases.
Many studies have consistently found that adults who increase their physical activity, either in intensity, duration, or frequency, can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by 30 to 40 percent as compared to inactive people, regardless of BMI.
A study by the American Cancer Society revealed that current and former smokers were more likely to develop colon cancer than lifelong non-smokers. In fact, “those who smoked for 40 years or longer, or those who didn’t quit before age 40 had a 30-50%” higher change of developing colon or rectal cancer. The good news is that the risk decreases as the time since quitting increases.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
Whole grain breads and cereals, as well as broccoli and sweet potatoes are a great source of fiber, which is essential to a healthy digestive system. Other colon-healthy foods include yogurt, which balances intestinal flora, and tuna, which contains selenium to detoxify your system. Talk with your physician about these and other foods that can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer.
Enjoy alcohol in moderation.
People who drink more than 3.5 alcoholic beverages each day have 1.5 times the risk of developing colon cancer as those who drink more moderately or who don’t drink at all.
The Importance of Regular Colon Screenings
More than 130,000 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year, but 60% of colorectal cancers could be prevented if everyone who is eligible for a screening receives one.1 Get a colonoscopy every year, especially if you’re over the age of 50, sooner if you have a personal or family history of colon health problems. Yes, there are more fun things you could do with your time, but this could save your life.
If you’re concerned about your colorectal health, consult the specialists at Jefferson Surgical Clinic in Roanoke, Virginia.