To Your Health: Care for your colon
It’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month but what exactly is colorectal cancer? Colon cancer is cancer of the large intestine, the lower part of your digestive system. Rectal cancer is cancer of the last several inches of the colon. Together, they’re often referred to as colorectal cancer. It is expected to cause about 51,690 deaths during 2012. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 20 (5.1 percent).
Kristine Krueger, MD, ULP gastroenterologist, shares some risk factors, symptoms and prevention tips for this disease.
Some risk factors you can’t change, such as age, race and family history. About 90 percent of people diagnosed with colon cancer are older than 50. African Americans have a greater risk of colon cancer than do people of other races. If you’ve already had colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease, can increase your risk. And you’re more likely to develop colon cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with the disease.
Lifestyle choices can also increase your risk, Krueger said. Colon and rectal cancers may be associated with a diet low in fiber and high in fat and calories. Colon cancer is also more common in diets with low calcium intake. People with diabetes, insulin resistance or who are obese may have an increased risk of colon cancer. Inactivity, smoking and heavy alcohol use may also put you at risk.
Krueger recommends colon cancer screenings beginning at age 50—or sooner if you have a family history of the disease. But, she said, the best thing you can do is make some lifestyle changes to reduce your risk: eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, including calcium-enriched foods, exercise, maintain a healthy weight, limit alcohol use and discontinue smoking. For more information, contact UMA’s nurse coordinator at 502-813-6500.
Editor’s Note: UofL Today reprints To Your health from the “ULP Insider” newsletter. Read the entire March issue (opens as a PDF document).