Beat The Odds

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Beat The Odds

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Beat The Odds
Beat The Odds
Diet, exercise and timely screening -- here's how they can save your life.
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Reviewed by the Faculty of Harvard Medical School

Beat The Odds


Here are some statistics about colorectal cancer:

  • It is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States.
  • An estimated 137,000 new cases will be diagnosed in 2014. About 50,000 people will die from the disease.
  • About 6 percent of Americans are expected to develop the disease within their lifetime.
  • The risk of colorectal cancer begins to increase after the age of 40 and rises sharply at the ages of 50 to 55, then doubles with each succeeding decade.

Here is what you can do to avoid contributing to these statistics.

Screening Comes First


The most important step, by far, is to have a screening test. These tests come in various forms, some more difficult to perform than others. We'll get into the details about them in a minute.

In addition to screening, you can take other steps to reduce your risk of cancer. In fact, you already know and may be practicing some of the techniques for preventing colorectal cancer.

Lots Of Fruit And Vegetables


Researchers can't say that a particular diet causes colorectal cancer, but an association between diet and disease is likely. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods. Eating less red meat and limiting how much alcohol you drink also can help. Of course, stopping smoking is crucial.

Researchers used to think that eating a high-fiber diet would protect against colorectal cancer, but now they're not sure. Still, hold on to your salad. After all, eating a high-fiber diet and drinking plenty of fluids is healthy anyway.

Thirty Minutes A Day


Another way to help prevent the disease is through exercising and maintaining a healthy weight. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week, but even small amounts of regular exercise can help. Extra fat, especially around your waist, can increase your chances of getting colorectal cancer.

The Supplement Quandary


Some studies suggest that people with higher blood levels of vitamin D have a decreased risk of colorectal cancer compared to people that have abnormally low levels.

Other studies have focused on aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs commonly are used to relieve minor pain. Other NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Motrin, Nuprin or Advil, for example), naproxen (Naprosyn, Aleve) and indomethacin (Indocin). Some studies have found that people who regularly use NSAIDs have a lower risk of developing colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps (which can develop into cancer). However, more study is needed. According to the American Cancer Society, taking NSAIDs to lower colorectal cancer risk isn't currently recommended.

Screening: The Best Protection


Screening allows your doctor to find polyps in the colon. Polyps are the growths than can lead to cancer. Certain procedures also allow the doctor to remove polyps in the course of the screening test. One estimate says that removing polyps can lower the occurrence of colorectal cancer by as much as 90 percent.

Screening tests range from simple, home-based tests to complicated procedures involving special medical equipment. Work with your doctor to select the option that is right for you. Click here to find out more about your screening options.

A Final Word


If you feel that getting screened for colorectal cancer may be a little uncomfortable and inconvenient, you're probably right. But think of it this way — this short-term inconvenience can save your life.


colorectal cancer,cancer,diet,polyps,exercise
Last updated September 10, 2014

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