Although there is no one sure way to prevent colon disease, screenings like colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy can identify early signs of colon cancer. Along with regular screening, preventing colon disease also involves controlling risk factors.
Although there is no one sure way to prevent colon disease, screenings like colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy can identify early signs of colon cancer. Screenings can also help providers diagnose unexplained changes in bowel habits, abdominal pain, weight loss, and other concerns. In most cases, screening should begin at age 50.
The presence of other risk factors may lead to recommended screenings at earlier ages. For instance, it’s recommended that African Americans begin screening at age 45, while those who have a family history of colorectal cancer should begin at age 40. It is always important to discuss screening recommendations with your provider.
Along with regular screening, preventing colon disease also involves controlling those risk factors that you can. According to the American Cancer Society, it is actually possible to lower your risk of developing colon cancer by managing risk factors such as diet, physical activity and other lifestyle choices.
Diets high in vegetables and fruits have been linked with a lower risk of colon cancer, while diets high in processed foods have been linked with a higher risk. So, it’s important that you eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on fiber. For example, try to eat at least five or more servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Choose whole grains rather than processed grains and limit the amount of red meat that you eat. It is also a good idea to avoid excessive alcohol intake, and to quit smoking if you are a smoker.
Physical activity is another area that you can control to reduce your risk of colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults get at least 30 to 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on five or more days of the week.
Obesity raises the risk of colon cancer in both men and women, but the link seems to be stronger in men. It’s important that you try to maintain a healthy weight throughout your life by balancing what you eat with physical activity.
In general, using common sense can help you stay healthy. If you smoke, talk to your provider about a smoking cessation program. If you’re overweight, you can ask your provider about a weight loss plan that will work for you. Be sure to eat right, exercise, and schedule a colon screening if you’re over 50, or earlier if recommended by your provider.