Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Six percent or 1 in 20 people will develop colon cancer. The number of new cases and the number of deaths due to colon cancer in the U.S. has been decreasing slightly. This may be due to more awareness of colon cancer screening and polyp removal.
Colon cancer can sometimes be linked with known risk factors. Some of these risk facts can be controlled, though not all can be avoided.
To lower your risk of colon cancer, consider the following:
Diet and lifestyle
Diet appears to be linked with colon cancer risk. People who eat a diet high in fat, protein, calories, alcohol, and red and white meat, and low in calcium and folate (a B vitamin) seem to be more likely to develop colon cancer. A diet low in vitamin D may also increase the risk of colon cancer. Vitamin D is found in foods such as salmon, tuna fish and sardines packed in oil, and milk. Vitamin D is also made in your body after exposure to sunshine.
Some people may ask if changing their diet will help prevent colon cancer because of news reports that it doesn't help. A recent study found that a diet low in fat and high in fiber, fruits and vegetables did not reduce the risk of colon cancer returning during a 3-4 year period. It is important to keep in mind this is one study on stopping the return of cancer, not in preventing cancer from starting.
A lack of exercise and a diet high in saturated fat may also increase the risk of colon cancer. Saturated fats are found in animal products such as butter, cheese, whole milk, ice cream and fatty meats. Smoking cigarettes may also increase the risk of colon cancer.
Polyps are growths that can occur in the colon. The removal of these may be linked with a reduced risk of colon cancer. This can be done during some of the tests to look for colon cancer. (Some colon polyps will become cancer). Talk to your doctor to learn when you should have colon screening.
Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs
Some studies have shown that the use of certain drugs to reduce inflammation may be linked with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Female Hormone Use
Hormones used after menopause is linked with a reduced risk of colon cancer.
Before taking any drugs to change your risk of colon cancer, talk with your doctor. Female hormones and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have side effects and may cause problems for some people.
For more information about any cancer concern, contact:
Cancer Information Service
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center
UI Hospitals and Clinics
200 Hawkins Drive, 4802 JPP
Iowa City, Iowa 52242