Can You Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer – cancer that occurs in the rectum or colon – is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. This is especially troubling because colorectal cancer is highly preventable; it’s one of the most preventable cancers. You can’t prevent colorectal cancer entirely, but screening can significantly decrease your risk for developing the disease.

How is colorectal cancer preventable?

There are several lifestyle factors that may affect your risk for colon or rectal cancer. Diets high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber, and low in animal fats could decrease your risk for the disease. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, and not drinking alcohol could also help lower your risk.

One thing that absolutely helps prevent colorectal cancer, however, is colorectal cancer screening.

Colorectal cancer is highly preventable. Screening for colorectal cancer is the best way to help prevent the disease. Click To Tweet

Most colorectal cancers start out as polyps. These precancerous polyps are abnormal growths that occur in the colon or rectum. Finding and removing these polyps before they become cancerous can prevent colorectal cancer. Polyps can exist for years before they become cancerous. This is why screening for colon cancer is so important. These polyps may not cause any symptoms, and the only way to find them is through a screening.

Screening also detects cancers that have already developed. The earlier that cancer is detected, the easier it is to treat. Cancers are most treatable in their earliest stages.

Are you at risk for colorectal cancer?

The majority of colorectal cancer occurs in people over 50 years of age. Age is the biggest risk factor, but there are additional factors that can increase your risk for colon cancer:

  • Having an inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
  • Having a personal history of colorectal cancer, or a family history of colorectal cancer.
  • Inherited disorders such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome increase your risk.
  • Men are at a slightly higher risk for colorectal cancer than women. According to the American Cancer Society, the lifetime risk for men is 4.49% and the lifetime risk for women is 4.25%. Colon and rectal cancer affects both men and women, and both men and women should screen for the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 25% of adults between the ages of 50 and 75 have never been screened for colorectal cancer. 85% of those who have never been screened are insured.

If you’re over the age of 50, or if you’re at an increased risk for colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor. Screening is the most effective way to prevent colorectal cancer, and it can help find cancer in its earliest stages.