health and science

Ways to Lower Your Risk of Getting Colon Cancer, the 2nd Deadliest in America

There are some lifestyle changes people can make to lower their risk of developing colon cancer

NBC Universal, Inc.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America, and health experts say it's impacting a younger demographic at more advanced stages.

"It’s devastating, really, what we're seeing in terms of colorectal cancer incidents," said Dr. Dana Sloane, a gastroenterologist for Kaiser Permanente.

Sloane said doctors are seeing an alarming trend with younger patients developing colon cancer more than ever before.

Rates among Americans under 55 have nearly doubled over the past 25 years and one group is among those hardest hit.

"African Americans are 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer than other ethnic and racial groups and are 40% more likely to die," Sloane said.

Sloane said fear often keeps people from getting timely screenings.

"One of the X factors, if you will, in terms of why we are seeing colorectal cancer at younger ages, especially, is there's a fearfulness around this, right? So there's not just a lack of understanding, but there's a fearfulness of, you know, what does it mean to get screened," she said.

Doctors say everyone should begin screenings for colon cancer when they’re 45, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not. People who have a family history of the disease or other risk factors should get screenings even earlier in life.

Screenings can be done with a traditional colonoscopy, but there are less invasive options.

"That's something as simple as placing a small stool sample into a tube and then sending it off to your doctor and getting screened for colon cancer. No prep, no sedation, no day off of work," Sloane said.

Sloane said by the time people start experiencing symptoms, the cancer is often in a more advanced stage.

That's why it's important to get an annual exam and to know your individual risk and family history.

"Often times, there are no signs which is why intentional screening is so meaningful and impactful and can save a person's life.

"There are many patients who come to see me and they've never spoken with their mom, their dad, their siblings about their history," Sloane said.

Doctors say there are few lifestyle changes that can help lower your risk of developing colon cancer, including:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Staying physically active
  • Having a diet low in fat and high in fiber
  • Avoiding red meat
  • Minimizing processed foods

Smoking and drining a lot of alcohol have also shown to increase the risk for colon cancer.

Contact Us