I never used to worry about colon cancer, because I thought being a woman significantly lowered my risk. But here’s the truth: Although men have a higher risk percentage than women do, colon cancer is still the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US for both sexes. Here’s how you can lower your risk when it comes to this disease.
Four Main Colon Cancer Risk Factors
Some colon cancer risk factors, like age, genetics, and race are unavoidable. But others are simple lifestyle choices that anyone can reverse. Below are a few big ones to consider:
- Smoking. Inhaling chemicals in cigarettes increases your chance of developing harmful polyps in the large intestine.
- Physical inactivity. According to this study, the connection between a sedentary lifestyle and colon cancer is due to insulin resistance.
- Processed/red meat-heavy diet. Eating a lot of red or processed meat can cause colon polyps.
- Alcohol consumption. Alcohol causes inflammation and irritation in the gut/intestinal lining, which can result in cancerous polyps forming in the stomach and large intestine.
Risk Reduction and Prevention
Although colon cancer is more prevalent in men than women of any age, it’s still extremely important for women to follow screening and prevention protocols. Here are a few things you can do to reduce your risk of getting colon cancer.
1. Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is a factor when it comes to risk reduction. Keep your weight consistently on target with a healthy diet and exercise.
2. Take a blood pressure medication regularly, such as a beta blocker. Certain blood pressure medications have been found to have potentially positive effects on cancer prevention.
3. Stop smoking. It’s never too early to quit this harmful habit.
4. Remove red and processed meats from your diet. Eating a diet heavy in processed and red meats doesn’t do your gut any favors, because meat that has been cooked at high temps can increase production of cancer-causing chemical compounds in the intestines. Stick to fish and chicken.
5. Fill your plate with fruits, veggies, and whole grains. The more colorful and less processed your plate is, the better! Vegetables and fruits are perfect sources of fiber and minerals. Fiber cleanses the gut and promotes good digestion. Eat the rainbow.
6. Stay active. Keeping it moving will help keep you healthy on every level. Daily exercise sheds pounds, adds to your mental well-being, and adds years to your life.
7. Get tested regularly. The ACS recommends that women of average risk (with no family history or genetic predisposition) should get their first colonoscopy at age 45, and every ten years from that point, barring other issues that arise. If you have more potential risk factors, talk to your doctor about how often you should get screened.
8. Get some sun. Vitamin D deficiency can contribute to unhealthy colon. Those with higher levels of this vitamin in their systems were less prone to getting colon cancer by 22 percent. Get outside, but don’t forget that SPF!
If you follow these simple healthy lifestyle suggestions, you won’t regret it — and not just when it comes to colon cancer! Practical diet and exercise routines have been important for disease reduction since the early times, and they will continue to be. As long as you can stick to a healthy lifestyle, you’ll have a better chance of staying cancer-free!