True — Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States (excluding skin cancers), with about 145,000 people diagnosed each year, and the third leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the U.S. The good news is that individuals can take steps to prevent or reduce the risk for colon cancer. Here’s how:
• Get screened — Having regular screening for colon cancer is the single best way to protect yourself. You can detect cancer earlier, when it’s most treatable, or prevent it from developing in the first place.
• Maintain a healthy weight — Being overweight can increase the risk for many cancers, including colorectal cancer.
• Avoid a diet high in red and processed meat — Limit red meat, such as steak, hamburger and pork, and processed meat, such as bacon, sausage and bologna, to fewer than three servings a week.
• Get regular physical activity — Do something active you enjoy for at least 30 minutes a day to lower your risk of colon cancer. Activity also helps keep your weight down.
• Limit alcohol intake — If you drink, keep it to one drink or less a day. Even moderate amounts increase the risk of colon cancer.
• Avoid or stop smoking — On top of raising the risk of heart disease, stroke and emphysema, smoking is a major cause of at least 14 different cancers, including colon cancer. If you smoke, quit.
• Ensure proper nutrients, including vitamin D and folate — There’s evidence that adequate calcium and vitamin D protect against colon cancer. Shoot for about 1,200 mg a day of calcium and 1,000 IU a day of vitamin D. A daily multivitamin with folate is good for nutrition and can also protect against colon cancer.
• Talk to your doctor about a low-dose aspirin regimen — One low-dose aspirin a day can lower the risk of a heart attack, and long-term use can lower the risk of colon cancer. But aspirin has risks, so check with your doctor first.
Like all healthful behaviors, the earlier in life you start them and stick with them, the better for your long-term health.