The American Cancer Society reported in 2006 that about 150,000 Americans have been diagnosed with colon cancer. Here are seven risk factors for colon cancer and ways to reduce these risks.
1. The disease is more common in people over 50. As you would suspect, the older you become the more at risk you are. Unless someone discovers the fountain of youth, there is not much we can do with this factor.
2. Have you heard the expression, "Choose your parents carefully?" If one or more of your parents have developed colon cancer, the chances of you getting it are greater. The same goes for first-degree relatives: brothers, sisters, mother, and father. Again, there is not much we can do about this factor. However, you can start the screening tests for cancer at an earlier age; say 35 - 40 instead of 50, the standard age for screening.
3. Your personal history is important. If you've had a history of previous cancers or you have had colon cancer already, the risk factor increases. The key here is to do what you can to minimize the cancer the first time.
4. What you put into your body has a profound effect on not only the risk factor for colon cancer but also many health problems. It has been found that a diet that consists of foods that are high in fat and calories, especially fat from animal sources, can increase the risk for colon cancer. A diet that is low in fiber is also prone to increase the risks.
Finally, with risk factor four there is something we can do to lower our risk. Be aware of the food you are eating. Take the time to read the labels before you purchase your items from the store. There are so many alternatives to high fat, high calorie, and low fiber foods available that there is no excuse for not choosing the proper foods.
5. It should come as no surprise that smoking and using other tobacco products increase the risks of colon cancer. This is an easy fix. Stop smoking. Yes, nicotine is addictive and it's hard to stop, but there are many products that can help and support groups available.
6. Another no surprise is lifestyle factors. Do you drink alcohol? Do you not get enough exercise? Do you eat too much and are you overweight? All these increase the risk. You know what to do here to improve your odds, just do it.
7. If you have diabetes, you have a 30-40% increase risk factor of developing colon cancer. The key here is to modify your diet to lessen the risk that diabetes imposes.
While these risk factors do not guarantee you will develop colon cancer, they should prompt you to discuss them with your doctor and start the screening process for cancer at an early age should you have these factors.