By Mache Seibel, M.D.
You probably know about the college basketball tournament called March Madness, but the real excitement comes from knowing March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month. It’s so exciting that Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne are promoting a colonoscopy sweepstake, which you can enter at www.CBSCares.tv. That’s right, win a free trip to New York, get wined and dined, and then as your grand finale, receive your free colonoscopy. What could be better!
This type of awareness is essential to help get the word out. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death for both men and women, second only to lung cancer. More people die from it that from breast cancer and HIV combined. But it doesn’t have to be that way 1 person dying every 9.3 minutes.
Colorectal cancer is largely preventable if it is caught early. It’s simple: just get a yearly test for hidden rectal blood and a routine colonoscopy after age 50 and repeat it as often as recommended by your doctor. Over 90% of people diagnosed with colon cancer are over 50. Research has shown that 1 in 4 people over age 50 have polyps, which are cancer precursors. Here are 9 additional tips to help you prevent colon cancer.
2. Eat a balanced diet.
Eat more fruits and vegetables and less red meat. Diets that are high in fat and cholesterol, especially from animal fats, increase your risk of colon cancer. High-fiber diets help protect you from colon cancer.
3. Watch your weight.
Although obese men are at more risk for colon cancer obese women, being obese increases the risk for everyone. Another risk factor is the shape of your body; a person with a thicker waist (apple shape) has a higher rate of colon cancer risk more than extra fat in the thighs or hips (a pear shape).
4. Stay active.
5. Know your genetic risk.
6. Find out your family medical history.
I’ve talked about this my FREE Health Accelerator video series. Knowing your family medical history can save your life. A family history of stomach, liver, and bone cancer may also put you at increased risk for colon cancer.
7. Discuss your personal medical history.
Time with the doctor is often limited, but be sure to discuss your own medical history. Believe me, your doctor wants and needs to know your medical history, so tell him or her. Make sure they know if you have a history of polyps, certain cancers, or chronic inflammation of the bowel, all of which increase the risk of developing colon cancer.
8. Don’t smoke.
You probably know smoking is a risk factor for lung cancer. But it’s also a risk factor for colon cancer. Tobacco smoke that’s inhaled or swallowed carries carcinogens to the colon. Studies suggest that tobacco increase polyp size. One more reason not to smoke.
9. Reduce radiation exposure.
We are all constantly bombarded with low amounts of radiation. There are low amounts from the soil, radon, electronics and airplane travel. Medical x-rays like dental, mammograms and chest x-rays are fairly low in radiation but others like a barium enema or a CT scan are higher. Although radiation from airport scanners is supposed to be low, I travel a lot and insist on getting pat downs instead of going through the scanners. Time will tell if this is necessary or not. But for now, I’m skipping the airport scanners.
In honor of Colon Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to offer all of you a free colon cancer Stay Well Card to send to your friend or family member 50 or over. It’s a nice way to say, “Get a light at the end of your tunnel.” Click on the card and it will take you to a place to enter the recipient’s name, email address and a brief message.
It is a real pleasure to contribute a regular article to Families Online Magazine. Because most of the readers are women, and I trained at Harvard in Reproductive Medicine and am Director of the Complicated Menopause Program at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, most of my articles will either apply directly to women’s health, or contain information that can be of help with families. Some articles will be on things th at are ongoing topics, and others will be comments or perspectives on important issues you notice in the news.
My real passion is to help America stay well. I often speak to both medical and lay audiences, consult to companies about health and am frequently interviewed by the media. I’ve written 14 books, over 200 medical articles, and been editor in chief of a medical journal. My most recent book is Eat to Defeat Menopause.
I’m also the founder of www.HealthRock.com, which uses songs I write and usually sing to help people remember important medical information. After many of the articles, I’ll offer you a free song or eBook or other useful and/or entertaining content that I hope will help you stay well. My comments here aren’t intended to take the place of your healthcare provider. If you have a medical problem, be sure to ask your doctor. But I do hope that the information you receive from me will help you stay well. That’s my motto: It’s better to stay well than to get well. If you have a topic you would like me to cover, drop me a note at [email protected] and I’ll try to cover it for you or sign up for my newsletter at www.DoctorSeibel.com.
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