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How to best lower your risk of getting colorectal cancer

Colon cancer rate rising among Millennials, research shows
Posted at 5:19 PM, Mar 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-07 17:19:15-05

BALTIMORE — Colon cancer is the second deadliest cancer in Maryland, yet one of the most preventable.

According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 25 people in the United States will develop colon or rectal cancer at some point during their lifetime.

But there are things you can do to help lower your risk.

WMAR-2 News spoke with Dr. Alan Chen, a gastroenterologist at MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center, to find out the best ways to decrease people's chances of developing colon cancer.

The main thing Dr. Chen recommended was to get screened for colon cancer. Most people start to get screened when they turn 50, but Dr. Chen stated people may need to get screened earlier if it runs in your family.

Some screening tests can also find and remove precancerous growths (polyps) in the colon or rectum. Polyps are not cancer, but over time cancer can start in the polyps. Removing them lowers the risk of cancer.

Your diet also plays a huge role.

Diets that include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colon or rectal cancer.

"Increasing your fiber intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, regular exercising, not smoking, light alcohol use, all helps," said Dr. Chen.

Also, eating less red meat and processed meats, maybe twice a week, helps as they have been linked with an increased risk of colorectal cancer.

Like previously mentioned, if you are not physically active, you may have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer and alcohol use has been linked with a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

If you do drink alcohol, the American Cancer Society recommends no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.

And while aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can help decrease risk of getting colorectal cancer, Dr. Chen recommends talking to your doctor first before taking.

"Talk to your doctor first because it can have side effects with ulcers in stomach," said Dr. Chen.

Overall, Dr. Chen said people should not be afraid of getting screened for colorectal cancer. He says the procedure isn't bad and if you did have any concerns to just ask your doctor.

He also mentioned to be wary of signs that you may need to get screened early.

To learn more about ways to lower your risk for colorectal cancer, click here.