Fast Facts:

  • There’s no medicine or lifestyle to completely guarantee preventing colon cancer.
  • The best way to reduce your risk of getting colon cancer is to start getting screened beginning at age 45.

In addition to getting screened, other ways to reduce your risk of getting colon cancer include: staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding processed foods, alcohol and tobacco products.

How can I avoid getting colon cancer?

Over 75% of people who get colon cancer have no identifiable risk factors. It is most common in people over 50, but can happen in people as young as their teens. Even people who lead very healthy lifestyles are at some risk for getting colon cancer. This is especially true if you have certain genetic conditions or if you are exposed to chemicals. Just getting older increases your risk! Even though there’s no medication or lifestyle that’s guaranteed to prevent colon cancer, there are certain things you can do to reduce your risk.

If I can’t prevent colon cancer, what’s the best way to reduce my risk?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that the best way for you to reduce your overall risk of getting colon cancer is to start getting screened beginning at age 45. And then to follow up with regular screenings after that. In an earlier article, we talked about the different screening tests available and which one could be right for you. Your risk factors and preferences will play a role in which screening test you decide to use. It’s important to remember that the best test is the one you are most likely to do. Talk to your doctor and decide what’s best for you!

Are there other things I can do to reduce my risk of colon cancer?

Increasing age and genetics are related to colon cancer risk. And evidence suggests that processed food, alcohol, being overweight and using tobacco are associated with higher rates of colon cancer.You can’t control your age, race or genetics, but doctors think that making certain lifestyle choices may be able to lower your risk of developing colon cancer. They recommend that you:

  • Eat a healthy diet. People who eat fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid highly processed foods, have a lower risk of chronic disease overall. Make sure to choose whole grains rather than processed grains. Try to limit fatty cuts of meat and deli meats. Fish, poultry and lean meats are good options.
  • Maintain a normal weight. This also lowers your risk of diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
  • Stay physically active.
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco.

I’ve heard aspirin can prevent colon cancer. Is this true?

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommended taking daily low-dose aspirin to possibly prevent colon cancer and heart disease back in 2016. Their new guidelines in 2022 looked at the available medical evidence. They didn’t find that aspirin decreased the rate of colon cancer very much, so they withdrew that recommendation. Aspirin is a medication with side effects (like stomach upset and bleeding). All medicines should only be taken if the benefit outweighs the risks. You should definitely talk to your doctor before starting aspirin on a regular basis.

The Bottom Line:

Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers in both women and men. Even though doctors know a lot of the risk factors associated with getting colon cancer, there’s no sure-fire way to prevent someone from getting it. Even very healthy people have some risk. You can’t control all of the risk factors, but you can do things to reduce your risk. Eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, minimize alcohol use and avoid tobacco. Most importantly, start getting screened on a regular basis with a test you will use. Remember, check it for your family. Check it for someone you love. Checkit4Andretti!


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