Posted on March 01, 2019
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. The American Cancer Society’s estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States for 2019 are 101,420 new cases of colon cancer and 44,180 new cases of rectal cancer.
In addition, in the United States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and in women, and the second most common cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined. It’s expected to cause about 51,020 deaths during 2019.
It is encouraging to learn that the death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women for several decades. There are likely several reasons for this decline, one of the most important being screening. Colorectal polyps can now be found more often and earlier thanks to screening options such as colonoscopy. They can be removed before they can develop into cancers or are being found earlier when the disease is easier to treat. Additionally, treatment for colorectal cancer has greatly improved over the last few decades. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States. Unfortunately, although the overall death rate has continued to drop, deaths from colorectal cancer among people younger than age 55 have increased 1% per year from 2007 and 2016.
Although we now have better screening and treatment options to help combat colorectal cancer, doctors have identified several lifestyle factors that contribute to the likelihood of developing the disease. Studies have found that by taking the time to change bad habits and implement new ones, we can go a long way towards preventing colorectal cancer.
- Stop Smoking: Smoking may increase colorectal cancer risk. Research shows people who smoke are at equal risk for colon cancer as those with a first-degree relative with the disease.
- Limit Alcohol Intake: Heavy alcohol use may increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Doctors advise drinking alcohol in moderation only.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: Eating a healthy diet—one rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in red and processed meats—may help reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. A high intake of red and processed meats has been shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Exercise Regularly: An active lifestyle has been linked to a reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Speak with your doctor about an exercise program that is right for you.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight can increase your risk of colorectal cancer. Eating healthfully and exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy body weight.
With regular screenings as recommended by your doctor and simple lifestyle changes, you can lower your risk of colorectal cancer. If you or someone you know has a family history of colon, rectal, or other cancers, we encourage you to contact CCHC Southern Gastroenterology Associates at 252-726-7111.