Kick off 2024 with a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, exercise and get a colon cancer screening.
Maintaining a healthy body weight and getting a colonoscopy may have greater health significance than you realize.
Being overweight is linked to a higher chance of developing at least 13 types of cancer, according to a recent Clinical Practice Statement by the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA).
Risk factors for colon and rectal cancer include being overweight or living with obesity, eating a high-fat diet and living a sedentary lifestyle.
Losing weight and increasing physical activity may help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC).
Obesity Is Linked to Colon Cancer
Healthcare providers use Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference as screening tools to assess a person’s weight status and its potential impact on disease risk.
- If your BMI is 25.0 to 29.9, you fall within the overweight range.
- If your BMI is 30.0 or higher, you fall within the obese range.
The CDC reports you have a higher risk of developing obesity-related conditions if you are …
- A man whose waist circumference is more than 40 inches.
- A non-pregnant woman whose waist circumference is more than 35 inches.
“Obesity is second only to cigarette smoking as the most common preventable cause of cancer,” the OMA reports. “For nonsmokers, obesity is considered the single most common preventable cause of cancer, especially when accompanied by unhealthful nutrition and physical inactivity.”
The OMA reports an increase in body weight may be contributing to an increase in cancer among young adults.
One in 260 people will get colon cancer before they turn 50, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. This is called early-onset or young-onset CRC. By 2030, about 10.9 percent of all colon cancers and 22.9 percent of all rectal cancers will affect patients younger than 50.
“Among U.S. adults, the proportion of cancers attributable to excess body weight is at least 5 percent for men and 10 percent for women,” according to the OMA.
Maintain Or Achieve a Healthy Weight
One way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to maintain a healthy weight.
“Although cancer has many risk factors, managing one’s weight effectively is an essential step in keeping that risk minimal,” writes Monu Khanna, MD, in Healio.
By making healthy lifestyle choices, like eating healthy foods and exercising, you can achieve a healthy weight.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, a healthy eating plan …
- Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.
- Includes a variety of protein foods, such as seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes (beans and peas), soy products, nuts and seeds.
- Is low in added sugars, sodium, saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol.
- Stays within your daily calorie needs.
“Intentional weight loss of more than 5 percent of body weight has been associated with a lower risk for obesity-related cancers,” Dr. Khanna wrote in Healio.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week to maintain your weight. To lose pounds, you may need to exercise more and eat fewer calories. Consult your doctor before starting any weight loss or exercise programs.
“Being physically active can improve your brain health, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities,” according to the CDC.
45? It’s Time to Get Screened for Colon Cancer
More than any diet or exercise regimen, a screening offers the best prevention against colon cancer. Colorectal cancer screenings save thousands of lives every year.
For people at average risk for colon cancer, healthcare agencies recommend starting screenings at 45, even if you don’t have symptoms. If there is a family history of colorectal cancer, you might need earlier screening. If you have digestive symptoms, you should consult your doctor, regardless of your age.
Delaying or avoiding cancer screenings may be detrimental to your health.
Schedule Your Colon Cancer Screening
Colorectal cancer almost always begins with a polyp, a small cluster of cells on the lining of the large intestine (colon) or rectum.
Although there are several screening options, colonoscopy is the most thorough. The procedure allows your doctor to view the entire length of the colon to examine for polyps that are cancerous or may develop into cancer.
Your doctor can often remove precancerous polyps during your colonoscopy so they will not develop into cancer.
Most insurance plans provide coverage for a screening colonoscopy for patients 45 and older. Call your health insurance company to confirm your coverage.
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, beginning screenings at age 45 could potentially prevent 60 percent of deaths caused by colon cancer.
No matter your weight, if you are 45 or older, commit to improving your health this year and talk to your doctor about scheduling a colon cancer screening. Our doctors perform colonoscopy screenings at surgery centers around the country. Search for a gastroenterologist in your area and schedule your colonoscopy.