5 Ways You Can Protect Your Colon Health

5 Ways You Can Protect Your Colon Health

Lee esto en EspañolStaying healthy is easier if you take care of the basics. Go to the doctor at least once a year for a wellness checkup. Get your preventive screening tests. Just doing those two things can help you live a longer and healthier life. Annual wellness exams and screenings catch health problems early, when they’re easier to treat.

But there is plenty more you can do to protect yourself from health problems. Protecting your colon is important because, except for skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the U.S.

5 Ways to Protect Your Colon

What all can you do to protect yourself from colon cancer? Start with these five things, says the Mayo Clinicleaving site icon

1. Get a Colon Cancer Screening
The growing number of people getting preventive screenings has brought the colorectal cancer death rates down. That shows that screening really does work. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommend that everyone 45 to 75 years old get a screening. If you have certain health problems or a family history of colon cancer, your doctor may want to start testing you for colon cancer earlier. Learn about the different options for colon cancer screening.

2. Move Your Body
Exercise offers many benefits, from helping your heart to managing your weight. Research shows it may also lower your chance of getting some types of cancer, like colon cancer. A good goal is 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days.

3. Eat Your Vegetables and Limit Processed Meats
Getting enough fiber is an important part of a healthy colon. Eat higher fiber foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Limit how much meat you eat, especially processed meats. Limit unhealthy fats like the fat found in fried foods. But eat healthy fats like those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and salmon.

4. Watch Your Weight
Extra pounds can raise your chance of colon and other cancers. If you need to lose a few pounds, start by talking to your doctor. Your health care provider can be a great resource to help get you started on the right plan for you.

5. Don’t Smoke and Limit or Avoid Alcohol
If you choose to drink alcohol, do so moderately. That means no more than one drink a day for women or two drinks a day for men. And if you smoke, quit. Your doctor can offer tips or guide you to a program to help you stop.

Talk to Your Doctor About Screening

Age, risk factors and family medical history can impact the timing of your cancer screening tests and how they’re covered. Be sure to tell your doctor if your parents, siblings or children have colon cancer.

Also ask your doctor:

  • Do you recommend a screening test for me? If so which one?
  • How do I prepare for the test? Do I need to change what I eat or what medicines I take before the test?
  • What’s involved with the test?
  • Are there any risks?
  • When will I get results?
Sources: Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer, leaving site icon American Cancer Society, 2023; Six Ways to Lower Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer, leaving site icon American Cancer Society, 2021; 5 things you can do to keep your colon healthy, leaving site icon Mayo Clinic, 2023; Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Colorectal Cancer, leaving site icon Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2023

Originally published 2/15/2023; Revised 2024