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6 Steps to Reducing Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Removing abnormal polyps before they become cancerous is key to reducing the instances of colorectal cancer.
March 16, 2015

Colorectal cancer may not garner as much attention in the media as other forms of cancer, but it is the second-leading cause of cancer death in Idaho and the U.S. Colorectal cancer includes cancers of the colon or the rectum.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, an opportunity to understand your and your loved ones' risk factors and how proper screening can drastically reduce instances of colorectal cancer and death.

Most cases of colorectal cancer develop from abnormal polyps in the colon. It typically takes those abnormal cells 10 to 15 years to develop into colorectal cancer. As a result, regular screenings can often prevent the development of colorectal cancer.

Beginning at age 50, men and women should have a colonoscopy every 10 years, continuing until age 75. In 2012, Idaho ranked 38th in the nation with only 60.6 percent of men and women age 50 to 75 being current on their colorectal cancer screenings.

Idaho by the numbers:

  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in Idaho (and across the U.S.)
  • In 2011 there were 639 new invasive cases of colorectal cancer in Idaho
  • In 2011 there were 222 colorectal cancer deaths in Idaho
Colorectal cancer risk factors:
  • The risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age, and the risk increases dramatically after age 50. Ninety percent of all colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed after age 50.
  • A family history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative, especially if before the age of 55, roughly doubles the risk
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis, have a much higher risk
Steps for reducing your risk for colorectal cancer:
  • Eat low-fat, high-fiber foods
  • Eat many fruits and many color of vegetables every day
  • Don't smoke
  • Don't drink more than one alcoholic drink a day
  • Maintain a healthy weight and be active every day
  • Get a colonoscopy screening at age 50
Signs you may be at higher risk for colorectal cancer:
  • You or someone in your family has had cancer
  • You are over age 50
  • You do not exercise and are not active
  • You are overweight
Warning signs of colorectal cancer can include:
  • Blood in or on your stool
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Unexplained weight loss
These warning signs also can be associated with many other health concerns. If you have any of these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor. Only your doctor can determine why you're having these symptoms. 

Remember: You know your body best. If you notice any changes, talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider. Ask your healthcare provider if you need a colonoscopy or any other cancer screenings.

St. Luke's can help you find a doctor or healthcare provider. Call St. Luke's at 208-381-9000 or visit www.stlukesonline.org.

Contributing sources: Idaho Department of Health & Welfare; Comprehensive Cancer Alliance for Idaho; Colon Cancer in Idaho