As many as seven out of 10 cases of colorectal cancer could be prevented. While a I few risk factors can't be helped-risk rises with age, a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease and/or colorectal adenomas (precancerous polyps), or a family history of adenomas or colorectal cancer-simple steps provide significant protection. What the studies are suggesting…
Get screened. A doctor inserts a thin flexible tube with a tiny camera into the colon via the rectum to detect and remove adenomas and cancerous growths.
Problem: Only 43% of US women get the recommended screening
Best: Get screened every five to 10 years starting at age 50. If you're at elevated risk, ask your doctor about starting earlier.
Boost vitamin D. This may inhibit the growth of tumors and the blood vessels that feed them. Many doctors recommend taking at least 1,000 international units (IU) daily.
Eat folate-rich foods—cruciferous and dark green leafy vegetables, beans, peas and citrus fruits. Folate promotes DNA replication and repair.
Cut back on meat. Increasing consumption of red meat (beef, pork) and processed meat (cold cuts, hot dogs) by four ounces per day boosts colorectal cancer risk by about 28% and 36%, respectively
Possible culprits: Iron, a pro-oxidant that damages DNA...growth-promoting hormones fed to the animals...carcinogenic compounds created during cooking or processing Limit red and processed meat to two servings weekly.
Limit alcohol. Colorectal cancer is 41% more common among women who consume three or more drinks daily than among nondrinkers. Alcohol may reduce the body's stores of folate.
Best: Have no more than one drink per day.
Don't smoke. In a study of 469,019 women, colorectal cancer deaths were about 33% to 51% more common among current smokers who had smoked for 20 years or more than among women who never smoked. The sooner you quit, the sooner your risk will fall. For help. visit www.smokefree.gov.
Watch your weight. More than 20% of colorectal cancers in US women are due to excess pounds, which contribute to insulin resistance (inability of cells to properly use the hormone insulin), inflammation and overgrowth of cells lining the gut.
Move your body. Exercise helps balance levels of insulin and other hormones. It also speeds passage of food and bile salts through the gut, possibly shortening the exposure of intestinal walls to potential carcinogens.
Wise: Exercise 30 minutes or more daily.
Consider a daily aspirin. This may reduce colorectal cancer risk when taken at 325 mg daily for 10 years or more. However, aspirin also increases risk for gastrointestinal bleeding—so talk to your doctor about weighing the benefits and risks.
Want to Keep Reading?
Continue reading with a Health Confidential membership.