Colorectal cancer is a formidable foe. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. Colorectal cancer is similarly lethal in Canada, where the Canadian Cancer Society reports it is the second leading cause of cancer death in men and the third leading among women.
Some risks for colorectal cancer are beyond an individual's control. For example, the CCS notes that a personal or family history of polyps in the colon, rectum or both significantly increases a person's risk of developing colorectal cancer. Lynch syndrome, a condition caused by gene mutations, causes polyps to develop in the lining of the colon, rectum or both. Since Lynch syndrome is inherited, there is nothing men and women can do to reduce their risk of developing it. Research into colorectal cancer is ongoing, making it difficult for doctors to say certain behaviors or approaches are certain to reduce a person's risk of developing the disease. But there are certain things individuals can do that might help save them from falling victim to colorectal cancer.
Get screened. The CDC notes that colorectal cancer usually begins when polyps form in the colon or rectum. If they go undetected, these polyps may turn into cancer. Screening can detect polyps early so they are found before they develop into cancer. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends colorectal cancer screening using high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, or FOBT; sigmoidoscopy; or colonoscopy for men and women between the ages of 50 and 75.
Embrace physical activity. While men and women who are physically active can still get colorectal cancer, the CCS notes that people who live sedentary lifestyles are at a higher risk of developing the disease than those who are active.
Maintain a healthy weight. According to the CCS, people who are overweight or obese have greater incidence rates of colorectal cancer than those who maintain healthy weights. The CCS also notes that men with a high body mass index, or BMI, seem to be most at risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Limit alcohol consumption. The CDC notes that some studies have shown that limiting alcohol consumption may reduce a person's risk of developing colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is a devastating disease, but men and women who embrace healthy behaviors may be able to lower their risks.