Many of us are concerned about our health enough to take proactive steps to live better and healthier lives. As we get older, colon cancer looms large as a threat that we need to prevent or deal with if our attempts at prevention fail. It has been estimated that about 95,270 new cases of colon cancer and 39,220 new cases of rectal cancer will be discovered by the end of 2016, according to the American Cancer Society. After skin cancer, colorectal cancers are the most prevalent form of the disease in both men and women in the United States. A man has a lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer of 4.7% or one in 21. For women that rate is about 4.4% or one in 23. There are other factors that impact a person’s chances of developing this kind of cancer.
There is good news when it comes to preventing cancer of the colon and the rectum. Here are some tips for keeping your colon healthy and happy:
- Schedule regular colon screenings. Doctors recommend that most people start having colon screenings on a regular basis when they reach the age of 50. They recommend that African Americans begin to get these screenings earlier and start when they reach the age of 45. If you have some risk factors, such as a family history of the disease, you should talk to your doctor about starting those screenings even earlier or having them more often. Colonoscopies are not fun but small problems can be detected and treated before something such as colon surgery is needed.
- Eat a heathy and well balanced diet. If you want to keep your colon healthy, it is a good idea for you to add certain products to your diet. Eat more fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grain cereals and breads, seeds, nuts and beans. These have all been shown to reduce a person’s risk for developing colon cancer and some other kinds of the disease. These foods are also good to promote bowel function. On the flip side, there are some foods that you should not eat as much. Lower your intake of foods that are higher in saturated fat and red meat. Heavily processed foods are also bad for your colon health.
- Maintain a healthy weight. People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for developing colon cancer. Being overweight or obese also carries added risks for developing diabetes, heart disease and stroke so there are a lot of reasons to lose weight if you need to and to maintain a healthy weight if you are not.
- Get more exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get at least 30 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least five days a week but only 20% of all Americans do. Not only will this lower your chances for cancer but lowers your stress level as well, which contributes to your overall health and well being.
- Drink less alcohol. Alcohol can damage a lot of your body. It can increase your chances of developing colon cancer and can hurt other organs such as your pancreas and liver. If you do not want colon surgery, liver surgery or pancreatic surgery, you will keep your consumption of alcohol to a minimum.
- Quit smoking. It is well known that smoking cigarettes, and other products, increases your risk of developing lung cancer but it damages a lot of your body and increases your risk of developing colon (and other) cancer. The human body is very resilient and it is never too late to quit smoking. The positive effects of quitting smoking start almost immediately. You may not realize it but when you smoke you have a certain amount of carbon monoxide traveling around your body. That drops within just a few hours of quitting smoking. After one year of quitting, you have halved your risk of heart attack, developing heart disease or having a stroke.
No one really likes to think or talk much about their colon. While it is possible to treat colon cancer, catching it early is a key to being successful. Be tested often and follow these tips for better colon health.