What are the risk factors for colon cancer?

There are some risk factors for colon cancer that can be controlled and others that cannot. Some of the risk factors that can be controlled include:

  • Being overweight.
  • Having a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Using tobacco products, especially smoking.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Eating a diet high in red or processed meat.

Risk factors that cannot be controlled include:

  • Having a personal or family history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer.
  • Having a genetic (inherited) syndrome such as Lynch syndrome or familial adenomatous polyposis.
  • Being over the age of 50.
  • Having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Being African-American. African-American people have the highest incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer in the U.S. Researchers do not fully understand why this population is affected more than others.
  • Being Jewish and of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jewish). This population also has one of the highest incidence rates of colorectal cancer.

What can you do to prevent colon cancer?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent cancer. However, you can reduce your risk for colon cancer by:

  • Not using tobacco. Speak with your doctor if you need help quitting.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Eating a healthy diet low in red and processed meat. Aim for plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fait dairy. Talk with your doctor or a nutritionist about what you should include in a healthy diet.
  • Keeping a healthy weight. Ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.
  • Asking your doctor about genetic testing and screening recommendations if you have an inherited disease that increases your risk for colon cancer.

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