Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among both men and women in the United States. Colon cancer is caused by a group of abnormal cells that form a benign polyp which becomes cancerous over time. Although colon cancer rates have decreased with advances and availability of screenings, a large part of the population avoids colonoscopies which leads to colon cancer diagnosis at later stages when the cancer is harder to treat.
Risk factors of colon cancer include family history, age, race, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking and alcohol use. Things like age, race and family history are unavoidable and cannot be changed, but lifestyle changes may help to decrease your risk. Eating a diet higher in fiber, fruits and vegetables decreases constipation and promotes a healthier colon. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight with diet and exercise will help to decrease your risk of colon cancer. Although changing your diet and making lifestyle changes will not prevent you from developing colon cancer, it will help decrease your overall risk.
Lifestyle choices are important but they do not replace the need for screening. People should begin having colonoscopies at age 50 unless they have multiple risk factors and are encouraged to begin earlier by a physician. Talk with your doctor about lifestyle choices and when you should begin colon health screenings.