While screening is the most important step you can take to prevent colon cancer, it’s not the only one. You may be able to lower your colon cancer risk with some simple lifestyle changes. Be proactive about keeping yourself healthy. It will pay off!

Eat Well

iStock_000019518355_MediumConsistent evidence shows diets high in vegetables, fruits and other plant foods reduce risk for many diseases, including colon cancer. In addition to these foods containing lots of dietary fiber and nutrients, plant foods are good sources of substances called phytochemicals, which help protect cells in the body from damage that can lead to cancer. Plant foods can also help us maintain a healthy weight – also important in reducing risk of colon cancer – because many are lower in calories.

Diets high in red and processed meats have also been linked to colon cancer. Red meats include any meat that is red when raw, like beef, pork or lamb. Try to keep your red meat intake to 18 ounces (cooked) per week or less. Processed meats, on the other hand, should be avoided if possible. Processed meats include hot dogs, ham, bacon, sausages, among others, and cancer risk increases even with low consumption.

Get Your Exercise

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Research consistently shows adults who increase their physical activity, either in intensity, duration or frequency, can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by 30 to 40 percent. It’s estimated that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day is needed to protect against colon cancer. Exercise also helps you to maintain a healthy body weight, which reduces your risk for colon cancer. In fact, studies show people who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop colon polyps, a possible precursor to cancer, and higher weights are associated with higher polyp risk.

Know Your Family Health History

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A family history of colon cancer puts you at an increased risk for the disease. A family history is considered to be an immediate family member (parent, brother or sister) or multiple family members with colon cancer or polyps. If you have a family history, you may need to be screened at age 40, or 10 years before the youngest case in your immediate family, whichever is earlier. Talk to your family about their health history!

Learn more about genetics and colon cancer

Avoid Alcohol & Cigarettes

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Although modest amounts of some alcohols have been linked to protecting against coronary heart disease, alcohol is known to increase cancer risk. According to the National Cancer Institute, people who regularly drink 3.5 drinks per day have 1.5 times the risk of developing colon cancer as nondrinkers or occasional drinkers. If you do chose to drink, try to limit your consumption.

Long-term cigarette smoking is also associated with increased risk of colon cancer. The longer a person smokes, the greater the risk.

For more information about healthy living and reducing your colon cancer risk, visit our Live Your Best Life blog.

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