If statistics teach us one thing, it’s that our greatest fears are often the most improbable. Take, for instance, natural disasters. Statistics show that you only have a 1 in 4,513,000 chance of being hit by a tornado. That’s less than your odds of being struck by lightning (1 in 960,000) or your odds of being hit by an asteroid (1 in 20,000). Animal attacks are another fear that tops the list, but statistically speaking, they’re not likely to occur. Your odds of being killed by a venomous snake bite are about 1 in 50,000,000, while your odds of being bitten by a shark are about 1 in 11,500,000.
Wouldn’t it be nice if cancer came with those types of odds?
Unfortunately, colon cancer is a much more frequent offender. On average, the lifetime risk of developing colon cancer is about 1 in 20. And while there’s nothing that you can do to completely protect yourself from this disease, there are plenty of steps you can take to improve your odds. Take a look at these lifestyle changes that can put statistics on your side.
You’ve heard it said time and time again that you are what you eat, and this is especially true when it comes to colon cancer. It is estimated that 70 to 90 percent of colorectal cancers are caused by dietary factor (Source: Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology). The good news is that making healthy changes to your diet can turn the odds in your favor. Studies have repeatedly shown that a high-fiber, low-fat diet that is rich in whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables is linked with a decreased disease risk. Fill your plate with a colorful variety of fresh produce, and make sugary, high-fat foods a rare treat. Be sure to limit your intake of red meat and meats that are smoked or cured, as these have been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer.
Regular exercise is crucial to maintaining overall health and wellness, but experts say a routine stop at the gym isn’t enough – you need to keep moving throughout the day. A study published in the JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that sedentary behavior significantly increased the risk for three types of cancer – colon, endometrial and lung. Interestingly, even people who worked out regularly had an increased risk of cancer if they spent the majority of their day sitting. The study found that sedentary behavior increased the risk of colon cancer by 24 percent, endometrial cancer by 32 percent, and lung cancer by 21 percent (Source: Time).
Make exercise a top priority in your daily routine, but don’t stop there. Find ways to decrease your sitting time throughout the day. Your television time is a great opportunity to fit in some ab work or catch up on your ironing. Consider purchasing a standing desk if you do the majority of your work on a laptop. Instead of spending your evenings in your favorite recliner, try taking the family for a walk or jog around the neighborhood. Any decrease in your sitting time will lower your disease risk.
Limit alcohol and give up smoking
Tobacco use and alcohol are each known to increase the risk of several cancers, but that drinking and smoking together can increase the risk of certain cancers even more. If you currently smoke, start making a plan that will help you quit for good. Smokefree.gov is an excellent resource for tools, tips and support to help you reach your goals. You can also talk to doctor or pharmacist about products and medications that can help you quit smoking.
Alcoholic beverages are acceptable when kept in moderation. Current recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest that men limit themselves to two alcoholic beverages per day and women limit themselves to one.
Don’t skip exams
It is estimated that 60 percent of colon cancer deaths could be prevented with routine screening. Unfortunately, the CDC reports that only 65.1 percent of eligible Americans are up-to-date on colon cancer screenings. If you’re not sure when you need to begin colonoscopy screenings, start by taking our Screening Colonoscopy Age Quiz. Once you’re finished, you can use our Find A Center tool to locate a high-quality screening facility in your area.
Colon cancer remains the third leading cause of cancer death among men and women in the United States, but there are plenty of steps you can take to protect yourself from this disease. Start today by making healthy changes to your daily routine, and talk to your doctor about the best time to begin screening. Knowing your individual risk and taking the right preventative steps can greatly increase your odds of a bright and healthy future.