Some risk factors for colorectal cancer can’t be avoided, such as aging (the risk increases after age 50), having a family or personal history of colorectal cancer, having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, and being genetically predisposed (through conditions such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer, or Lynch syndrome).
And, although there’s no guaranteed way to prevent cancer, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk. These include:
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Consuming three or more alcoholic beverages a day increases the risk for colorectal cancer and benign tumors called adenomas, which have the potential to develop into cancer.
- Quit smoking. It increases your risk of colorectal cancer and death from this form of cancer, as well as formation of colorectal adenomas (and recurrence of these growths).
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Get screened. During procedures such colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, any polyps or adenomas can be removed. (Removing adenomas that are larger than one centimeter may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.)
- Eat more healthfully. While studies haven’t been conclusive on whether diets high in fats, proteins, calories and meat increase colon cancer risk, eating plenty of fiber, fruits and vegetables just makes good sense.