It’s a well publicized fact in the gastrointestinal health world that regular colonoscopies can drastically reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, as well as increase the rate of successful treatment if you do develop the disease. But monitoring your GI health through this simple exam shouldn’t be the only precaution you are taking in an effort to avoid colorectal cancer. The World Research Fund and The American Institute for Cancer Research released a report analyzing research on cancer prevention and survival. The study, which included information from 99 different studies in different parts of the world, included more than 29 million adults and analyzed more than 247,000 incidents of colorectal cancer. Two important findings in the study were lifestyle related, with evidence showing just how important proper diet and exercise are in the prevention of colorectal cancer.
Colorectal cancer has many known risk factors. Some of these are out of our control, like having a family history of colorectal cancer, being African American, being over the age of 50, or having certain diseases of the intestinal tract. Other risk factors that are preventable include a poor diet, having a sedentary lifestyle, being obese, or being a smoker or drinker.
Even though it has been known that being obese or sedentary can pose additional risks, this study delves further into the evidence and the connection between diet and exercise with a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. The study findings indicated strong evidence that regular physical activity, along with cutting out processed meats, red meat, and alcohol, and adding in extra whole grains, high fiber food, dairy, and calcium supplements, can reduce risks of developing colorectal cancer.
If all of this sounds daunting, and you’re not sure how to make the changes you might need to implement, realize that you can start slow and still make a significant difference. The World Cancer Research Fund International has recommendations on small things you can introduce into your daily routine. It’s best to approach these things as a lifestyle change rather than a diet. Also, keep in mind that it’s never too late to implement healthy habits with the aid of your doctor.
For average risk patients who don’t fall into the above mentioned high risk categories, screenings for colon cancer should be conducted once every 10 years starting at the age of 50. Colorectal cancer isn’t typically a quickly developing disease and often doesn’t show symptoms, meaning these preventative exams are even more important. The disease develops from noncancerous polyps in the large intestine and rectum, which can be detected, removed, and analyzed during a colonoscopy.
One of the main takeaways from this study should be that while a healthy diet and exercise routine are good for colorectal cancer prevention, they are also good for your general health and can reduce your risk of a host of other diseases and health concerns. If you have any questions about your colorectal health, or need to schedule a colonoscopy, make an appointment with Carolina Digestive Health Associates so we can evaluate your individual needs to determine your best course of preventative care and treatment should you need it.