Colorectal Cancer Prevention

Colorectal Cancer Prevention

By Karlee J. Ausk, MD
Gastroenterologist

In March, we commemorate National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

To do so, we take the time to recognize the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States. We honor loved ones who have been affected by colorectal cancer and raise awareness about colorectal cancer with the hopes to decrease the number of people dying from this disease.

What causes colorectal cancer?

There are a variety of genetic and environmental factors that contribute to the development of colon polyps. Only a small fraction of adenomatous colon polyps develop into colorectal cancer, but nearly all colorectal cancers arise from an adenomatous polyp. The role of colonoscopy is to identify and eradicate any adenomatous polyps so as to minimize future risk of colorectal cancer.

Several studies show that obesity increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer by 1.5 times. Cigarette smoking and moderate-to-heavy alcohol use also increase colorectal cancer risk. There is good news for Seattleites, however. Regular coffee consumption seems to decrease the risk of colorectal cancer.

How can I prevent colorectal cancer?

We have talked before about why you should be thinking about colorectal cancer screening. Simply put, it saves lives!

Besides staying updated on screening, there are other factors that studies suggest will decrease your risk of colorectal cancer. The strongest data shows that regular physical activity significantly decreases your lifetime risk of colorectal cancer (by about 25%). If you would like more physical activity, join us this weekend at the Mercer Island Half Marathon!

In summary, to prevent colorectal cancer you should: exercise, eat a healthy diet, avoid smoking and heavy alcohol use, and (when appropriate) get colon cancer screening. You can even drink an occasional espresso!

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