One risk factor of colon cancer is obesity, an unhealthy amount or distribution of body fat. Obesity is measured through body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared.
According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), obesity rates are steadily rising in the United States. Between 1988 and 1994, 56 percent of American adults over 20 were overweight to obese. Between 2011 and 2014, obesity rates jumped to almost 70 percent.
Obesity increases the risk for colon cancer because obese people are susceptible to chronic low-level inflammation which can damage DNA at the cellular level. This can lead to mutations in colon cells and the formation of precancerous polyps. People who are obese are 30 percent more likely to develop colon cancer than people who have a BMI within the normal range. However, men who are considered obese are at higher risk for developing colon cancer than women who are considered obese.
Observational studies have shown that maintaining a healthy weight reduces the risk of colon cancer and several other cancers. Losing excess pounds can reduce low-level inflammation and prevent polyp development. Reducing body weight is also associated with decreased risk of breast, endometrial and prostate cancers (Source: National Cancer Institute).
Lifestyle changes can help prevent colon polyps and colon cancer. Here are some habits to try:
Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States, but it is preventable through routine screenings. Most adults who are at average risk for colon cancer should begin screening at age 50, but African Americans should begin screening at age 45. Other factors that may influence your colonoscopy age include family or personal history of polyps or colon cancer, so talk to your loved ones about your family’s medical history. That conversation could be life-saving!
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