Colorectal cancer is often associated with older men, but did you know that it affects men and women equally? Colorectal cancer is on the rise in people under the age of 50. In fact, one in ten people diagnosed are under the age of 50. With an increase in the number of younger people with colon cancer, it is an important time to learn more about the risk factors and know what you can do to prevent colon cancer.

While there are many risk factors you cannot change including family history, age, racial and ethnic backgrounds, there are certain factors that are controllable. Diet is one such factor. Diets high in fat and processed red meats have been linked to increased risk for colorectal cancer. Processed meats include sausage, bacon, ham, hot dogs, deli meats, salami and other similar meats. Types of meat and how they are prepared can make a difference. Smoking meats and adding a lot of salt can also increase cancer risk.

However, there is good news – changing your dietary habits can help lower your risk of colorectal cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that individuals do not eat more than 18 ounces of red meat per week, with a focus on reducing the amount of processed meats. Instead, load your plate up with fiber-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fruit. Individuals who eat diets high in fiber, specifically from fruits and vegetables, have a significantly lower risk of developing colon cancer.

Don’t forget to get screened for colon cancer. For those who catch colorectal cancer in its early stages, the survival rate is almost 90%. Testing for colorectal cancer can be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but it is important to realize the pros outweigh the cons. If you are over the age of 50 or experience warning signs of colon cancer, talk to your doctor about getting screened.

Know the warning signs of colerectal cancer:

  • Change in bowel habits
  • Persistant abdominal discomfort
  • Unknown weight loss
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Anemia (low iron)

Screening tests to ask your doctor about:

  • Colonoscopy
  • CT colonagraphy
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy

Sources: Colon Cancer Alliance, American Institute for Cancer Research. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.