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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
National Cancer Institute
American Cancer Society
Your Disease Risk
Your Disease Risk – Twitter Feed
Harvard School of Public Health – Nutrition Source
Thanks to Catherine Tomeo Ryan for her work on an earlier version of this piece.