Colon cancer kills approximately 48,000 men and women every year in the United States. In addition, more than 97,000 people in this country will be diagnosed with the disease this year. Yet, it’s one of the most preventable cancers.
More than 50 percent of colon cancers can be prevented through lifestyle changes and regular screening tests. The lifestyle changes are the same ones that reduce your risk of heart disease and other cancers.
Be more physically active by getting at least three hours a week of physical exercise. Eat less red meat and more fruit and vegetables. Cut alcohol consumption down to one to two drinks a day and take a daily multivitamin pill that contains folic acid.
Most important of all is to get screened regularly after age 50, when most people develop colon cancer. Testing for blood in your stools is easily done at home with a kit from your doctor. Sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and barium enema can be somewhat painful, but the risk of dying from colon cancer can be reduced by more than a third with regular screening.
Here is a short test you can take to determine your risk (see above). If it is above average, reduce your score by making some of the changes listed here.
The Harvard Center of Cancer Prevention provides risk evaluations not only for colon cancer but for breast, prostate, lung, bladder, skin (melanoma), uterine, kidney, pancreatic, ovarian, stomach, and cervical cancers at http://www.yourcancerrisk.harvard.edu