You Can Prevent Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer kills over 50,000 Americans each year. Lung cancer is the only cancer that kills more people. Both men and women can get colorectal cancer, and it usually strikes those over the age of 50.

The good news: Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers. No matter what your age, there is a lot you can do to lower your risk of getting the disease – from getting regular screening tests to making healthy changes to your lifestyle. 

Use this guide to decide which changes you should make. Start with a few. Then move on to the others. Remember to talk to a health care professional before making any big changes in your lifestyle.

The best way to prevent colorectal cancer is to get screening tests on a regular basis after age 50. These tests can find non-cancerous tumors, called polyps, that sometimes turn into cancer. By finding polyps early and having them removed, you can prevent cancer from starting.

The screening tests aren’t as uncomfortable as you might think, and the benefits make them well worth it.

Talk to a health care professional about which screening test might be right for you. If you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer, you may start screening earlier than most people.

Start getting screened at age 50, using one of the following:

  • Home fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
  • Barium enema every 5 years
  • Virtual colonoscopy every 5 years
  • Colonoscopy every 10 years
  • Stool DNA test (ask doctor how often)

Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day
A lot of things count as physical activity. Try walking, jogging or dancing—whatever you enjoy! In general, the more activity you get, the better. And any amount is better than none.

Maintain a healthy weight
The best way to maintain a healthy weight is to be physically active and make healthy food choices. Body mass index is a good way to gauge how you’re doing with your weight. Visit this link to see where you fall: BMI calculator.

Eat no more than 2 to 3 servings of red meat a week
The less red meat you eat, the better. Choose chicken, fish, or beans instead of beef, pork, lamb, or veal. A serving of cooked meat is 3 ounces—the size of a deck of cards.
Take a multivitamin with folate every day
Taking a multivitamin with folate (also called folic acid) can give you added protection against colorectal cancer.

Have no more than one alcoholic drink a day
Drinking alcohol increases your risk of colorectal cancer, but it can have positive and
negative effects on your health. Talk to a health care professional about how alcohol may affect you.

Get your calcium every day
Low-fat dairy products, like milk and yogurt, are the best sources of calcium.Daily calcium supplements, calcium-fortified foods like orange juice, and darkgreen leafy vegetables are good too. Try to get about 1,000 – 1,200 mg a day.
Get your vitamin D every day
In addition to being good for bone health, vitamin D can help lower the risk of colon cancer. Supplements are usually the best choice since not many food are rich in the vitamin. Try to get about 1,000 mg a day.


A note on aspirin: Long term daily use of a single aspirin (325mg) can lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Aspirin can also have some serious side effects for some people. Talk to a health care professional before you start taking it regularly. 


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