February is National Cancer Prevention Month! According to the American Cancer Society, 4 in 10 cancers are preventable and colon cancer is one of them. In 2019, there were 101,590 new cases of colon cancer and 51,020 colon cancer-related deaths. All colon cancers begin with abnormal growths called precancerous polyps, either in the colon or rectum. In its early stages, these polyps may not cause any symptoms. Colon cancer can be caught early, but there are ways to be proactive in mitigating the chance that polyps will develop. By engaging in preventive actions that will help lower colon cancer risk, many lives can be saved. Here are six ways to help:
1. Talk to your doctor about colon cancer and colon cancer screening options. Colon cancer screening is an important and effective way to detect cancer before signs and symptoms develop. Screening can also prevent cancer by removing polyps and detecting cancer early so that treatment will be more successful. The American Cancer Society recommends that all men and women of average risk for colon cancer get screened starting at age 45. Ask your doctor about what tests are available and determine which one is right for you.
2. Eat a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. A nutritious diet has been linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer. Eating less red meat (beef, pork, and lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs and luncheon meats) have also been linked to a decreased risk of colon cancer.
3. Be physically active. A sedentary lifestyle can lead to a greater chance of developing colon cancer. Getting regular exercise can reduce that chance.
4. Be mindful of your weight. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing colon cancer and colon cancer mortality. Eating healthy foods and increasing physical activity can help control your weight.
5. Don’t smoke. Long-term smokers are more likely to develop and die from colon cancer. If you smoke, quitting will decrease colon cancer risk.
6. Limit alcohol intake. Alcohol use is linked to a high risk of developing colon cancer. The American Cancer Society suggests that men should drink no more than 2 drinks a day and women should drink no more than 1 drink a day. One drink equates to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.
Habits related to diet, weight, exercise, and lifestyle can be hard to change. However, making these changes not only lowers your risk for colon cancer but for many other types of cancer as well. Take charge of your health this February and prevent cancer!
For more information about the Georgia Colon Cancer Prevention Project, visit www.uhru.org