How to Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer

February 19, 2024
How to Reduce Your Risk of Colon Cancer

Here are some of the best ways to help lower your colon cancer risk.

You may be able to reduce your risk of colon cancer by eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet, taking an aspirin a day and getting enough vitamin D. The best way to prevent colon cancer, however, is to stay up to date with your recommended colorectal cancer screenings. Colonoscopy is the gold standard for colon cancer screening because it identifies polyps [precancerous growths]. Colon cancer can be prevented or treated more successfully when polyps are found early and removed.

Should I be screened early?

The risk of colon cancer begins to rise at the age of 50, which is when physicians advise most patients to get their first colonoscopy. Individuals with risk factors should talk to their physicians about early screening. Risk factors include a family history of colon cancer, African American heritage and excess weight.

Remember, most people don't have symptoms until the disease has progressed and is harder to treat. Screening is the answer.

Should I take an aspirin a day?

While early detection is the most important step you can take to reduce your risk of colon cancer, an aspirin a day may also help. Talk to your doctor to see if aspirin therapy is right for you.

Research has shown that people with a history of polyps or colon cancer get fewer new polyps after they start taking an aspirin a day. Plus, aspirin not only helps to prevent colon cancer, but coronary artery disease as well.

Vitamin D also plays an important role in colon health. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium, which researchers now believe reduces the growth of abnormal cells in the colon.

Reduce Your Risk With A Healthy Diet

Every year, more than 146,000 people in this country are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women. You can reduce your risk by eating foods that are full of fiber, low in saturated fats and rich in vitamins. Here are some guidelines.

What to eat:

  • Fruits, vegetables and whole grains - Full of fiber, these foods dilute carcinogens and pump up the body's antioxidants. Fruits and vegetables have also been shown to reduce cancer recurrences, increase survival rates and decrease risk of secondary tumors. Good choices: berries, broccoli, onions, oats and green tea
  • Foods with folate - Folate has been shown to reduce the risk for genetic mutations, which can cause cancer cells to multiply. Good choices: citrus fruits, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and asparagus
  • Calcium and vitamin D - Recent studies have shown that adequate calcium and vitamin D may help reduce the risk of colon cancer. Good choices: low-fat or skim vitamin D fortified milk, and fish containing omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and mackerel

What not to eat

  • High-fat foods - Limit consumption of full-fat dairy products, red meat and poultry skins. A diet high in fat increases the risk of many diseases, including cancer.
  • Charred, smoked or overcooked meats - Some researchers have determined that overcooking or charring meat on the grill may increase the production of carcinogens, which are cancer-causing substances.
  • Alcoholic beverages - Heavy consumption of alcohol has been linked to colon cancer. Limit alcohol to two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less per day for women.

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