Six Steps to Lowering Risk for Colorectal Cancer

By Scott Gilbert, Penn State

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Penn State Hershey Colon and Rectal Surgery and Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute offers the reminder that colorectal cancer is preventable and treatable — and often curable — when detected early.

Colorectal cancer, or cancer of the colon and rectum, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. This year, more than 143,000 new cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed, and nearly 52,000 people will die from the disease. Although colorectal cancer may occur at any age, more than 90 percent of people are diagnosed after age 40. And the risk increases with age.

Here’s how to lower the risk:

1. Get regular colorectal cancer screenings beginning at age 50. Those with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps, or a personal history of another cancer or inflammatory bowel disease, should talk to their doctor about earlier screening.

2. Eat between 25 to 30 grams of fiber each day from fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread and cereals, nuts and beans.

3. Eat a low-fat diet.

4. Eat foods such as leafy green vegetables, which have folate.

5. Drink alcohol only in moderation. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to colorectal cancer and other gastrointestinal cancers. Those who use tobacco should quit. Those who don’t should not start the habit.

6. Exercise for at least 20 minutes three to four days each week. Moderate exercise such as walking, gardening, or climbing steps may help reduce the risk.

To find out if you are at risk, visit PennStateHershey.org/colorectal and click on Assess Your Risk.

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