Did you know that colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of all cancer deaths in the United States? It also happens to be one of the most preventable cancers, which is why it is so critical that Americans understand the importance of regular screening and the risk factors for colorectal cancer.
More than 90% of the cases of colorectal cancers occur in those who are aged 50 or older. If you are between the ages of 50 and 75, it is highly recommended that you get a regular screening for colorectal cancer. These screening tests can help detect any abnormal growths in your colon or rectum that have the potential to become cancerous. It can also detect cancer in its early stages when treatment is most effective. There are several methods of screening tests available, so speak to your doctor to discuss which test is right for you [i]. You can review the different screening tests here.
Even if you are not over the age of 50, there are some risk factors that put some individuals at higher risk than others. You are at higher risk if you:
- Have had inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.
- Have a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
- Have a genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
Lifestyle factors that put you at a higher risk include:
- Lack of physical activity
- Low fruit and vegetable intake
- A low-fiber and high-fat diet
- Overweight or obesity
- High consumption of alcohol
A recent study found that those who consumed a vegetarian diet had a 22% lower risk for all colorectal cancers than those who ate meat. Pescovegetarians (those who ate no meat, but ate fish more than once a month) had 43% lower risk than those who ate meat regularly. The results of this study show that your diet plays a major role in affecting your level of risk for colorectal cancer. By getting regular screening and adapting a healthy and active lifestyle, you can prevent colorectal cancer [ii].
Here is an infographic from the CDC highlighting the important facts to know about screening: