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National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
Colorectal cancer is the nation’s second leading cancer killer of men and women in the United States and a cause of considerable suffering among the 137,000 adults diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year. In 2010, over 52,000 Americans died from this cancer; however, when colorectal cancer is detected early, illness and death can be prevented.
Colorectal cancer poses the greatest risk to adults over the age of 50, and the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends that all individuals aged 50-75 be screened for colorectal cancer as part of routine preventive health care. Currently, about 1 in 3 adults between the ages of 50 and 75 are not receiving recommended screening. These are most likely to be Hispanics, those aged 50-64, men, American Indian or Alaska natives, those who don’t live in a city, and people with lower education and income.
While you can’t change some risk factors—genetics and aging, for example—there are things you can do that may lower your colon cancer risk. Here are 6 ways to help protect your colon health.
- Get tested for colon cancer. Screening tests can often find growths called polyps that can be removed before they turn into cancer. These tests also can find colon cancer earlier, when treatments are more likely to be successful. The American Cancer Society recommends testing starting at age 50 for most people; talk to your doctor about when you should start and which tests might be right for you.
- Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Diets that include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colon cancer.
- Get regular exercise. If you are not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colon cancer. Increasing your activity may help reduce your risk. Learn more about how to meet diet and exercise goals atcancer.org/foodandfitness.
- Watch your weight. Being obese or very overweight increases your risk of getting and dying from colon cancer. Eating healthier and increasing your physical activity can help you control your weight.
- Don’t smoke. Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colon cancer. If you smoke and you want to quit, or know someone else who does, see the American Cancer Society Guide to Quitting Smoking, or call us at 1-800-227-2345. Getting help increases your chances of quitting successfully.
- Limit alcohol. Colon cancer has been linked to heavy drinking. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. A single drink amounts to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1½ ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (hard liquor).
Content for this article provided by the American Cancer Society and the Department of Health and Human Services.