Good health is a goal that all people share. After all, being healthy means feeling more energetic, being more productive and enjoying a higher quality of life. It goes without saying that good health also means being cancer-free. During Colon Cancer Awareness Month, let's talk about how to prevent colon cancer.
Many cancers run in families, and colon cancer is no exception. Although most colon cancers develop independently of heredity, family history plays a larger role in colon cancer development than previously thought. This is why it is imperative that you are keenly aware of your own risk for colon cancer. Some risk factors are completely out of your control such as age, family history of polyps or colon cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, or diabetes. Other risk factors for colon cancer are within your control to influence. These include a high-fat diet, sedentary lifestyle, obesity, smoking, and alcohol.
Preventing colon cancer is not complex, but it takes discipline in four categories: nutrition, exercise, self-control, and getting screened.
Lifelong nutrition is an accumulation of daily choices. That drive-through value meal may be calling your name after a long day of work, but resist the temptation. A colon-healthy diet centers on fruits, vegetables and whole grains that are rich in fiber and will keep your digestive system moving. A healthy colon also requires good hydration, so take in at least 64 ounces of water per day.
Every time you make the choice to move your body instead of sit on the couch, you are preventing colon cancer. Begin by just taking a walk. Over time, you will increase the duration, intensity and frequency of your exercise. The most important thing to remember about exercise is that you must find an activity that you enjoy so you will continue to do it. Remind yourself that when you exercise, you are preventing diabetes, heart disease and other types of cancer as well as colon cancer.
Saying “no” to smoking and limiting your alcohol is one of the best ways to prevent colon cancer. Smoking exposes your cells to toxins and free radicals that damage the DNA of healthy cells and can initiate the development of colon growths called polyps. Alcohol acts as an irritant and can cause inflammation in healthy tissues. Bacteria in the colon and rectum can convert alcohol into acetaldehyde, a chemical that has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animal studies (Source: American Cancer Society). Click here to read more about liming alcohol intake.
Colon cancer is much more economical to prevent than to treat. Colon cancer treatment is financially burdensome, but a screening colonoscopy is affordable and often free of charge. Most adults who are at average risk for colon cancer should get their first colonoscopy at age 50 and every 10 years thereafter. Those who are at higher risk need more frequent screenings, so talk to your doctor to verify your individual colonoscopy age.