Know How to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

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Bruce_Waldholltz_march_13_largeBy Dr. Bruce Waldholltz

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which gives us an opportunity to learn more about colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) and focus on prevention and treatment. One in 20 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer, but the disease can be prevented and cured if detected and treated early.

March is also National Nutrition Month, and eating a healthy diet and maintaining a healthy weight are two of the main things people can do to protect against developing colorectal cancer.

The link between weight and colorectal cancer has been well established and needs to be taken into serious consideration. We know that there is an increased risk of developing cancer with an increased body weight, and this is especially true with breast and colorectal cancers.

People often ask what they can do to lower their risk of developing colon cancer. The biggest things people can do are maintain a healthy weight, lower their red meat consumption, get regular physical activity and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. The American Cancer Society (ACS) guidelines recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Sometimes old sayings stay true, and “an apple a day” remains good advice.

In addition to diet and exercise, colonoscopies are also essential to reducing the risk of colon cancer. The ACS recommends that people without a personal or family history of colon cancer should have colorectal screenings every 10 years beginning at age 50. However, people who have a personal history or a first degree relative (a parent, sibling or child) with colon cancer or colonic polyps should speak with their doctor about being screened at age 40. People are at a particularly high risk if they have a first degree relative who was diagnosed with colon cancer before age 50. In addition, the American College of Gastroenterology believes that African Americans are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, and recommends they be screened starting at age 45.

No matter what age you and your doctor decide to begin screenings, it is important to get them regularly. There are often no symptoms of colorectal cancer, which makes colonoscopies so important. Screening saves lives by both removing polyps before they are cancerous and diagnosing cancer at an earlier stage, when the survival rate is better. If people do have any symptoms, they should speak to their doctor immediately. Even if you don’t have symptoms, it is still important to discuss regular screenings with your physician.

Three things we can all do to help prevent cancer are:

  • Know your family history. People are not all equally at risk.
  • Participate in screenings for cancers we already know save lives, including pap smears, colorectal screenings and mammograms, along with the recent American Cancer Society guidelines for lung cancer.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping your weight in check is useful in both the prevention of cancer and decreasing the chance of cancer recurring as well.

A 12 year cancer survivor, Dr. Bruce Waldholtz is a gastroenterologist who practices with Gastroenterology Associates and is on the medical staff at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center. Waldholtz will present a talk Tuesday, April 30, called “The Cancer Connection: Nutrition and Exercise” at 6:30 p.m. at Chesapeake Regional Medical Center’s Lifestyle Center. For more information, call 757-312-2161 or visit

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One Response to Know How to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

  1. Dong Tun Reply

    June 16, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Most colorectal cancer occurs due to lifestyle and increasing age with only a minority of cases associated with underlying genetic disorders. It typically starts in the lining of the bowel and if left untreated, can grow into the muscle layers underneath, and then through the bowel wall. `–;

    My own online site

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