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Food choices can reduce colon cancer risk

March 5, 2014 Denise Pinkney

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer survival rates are now at 90 percent. Along with regular medical screenings, there are plenty of foods and vitamins to keep your digestive system healthy for life.

Studies show that eating five to nine servings of a variety of fruits and vegetables, including beans, can reduce your risk of colon and rectal diseases. That's because fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, phytochemicals, fiber and other nutrients that fight against pre-cancer and cancer cells. Adding even one fruit or vegetable to your current intake can help.

Considering eating these foods for prevention:

  • Dark, green leafy vegetables
  • Vegetables—choose orange, yellow, red, green, purple and white
  • Whole, fresh fruits—berries, citrus and apples with skin on
  • Beans, legumes, lentils
  • Raw, unsalted nuts and seeds
  • Whole grains—natural oatmeal, 100 percent whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, high-fiber/low-sugar cereal
  • Vitamin-D-fortified skim milk and yogurt

Exercise is great for every part of the body, including your digestive system. Incorporate 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise most days of the week, accompanied by at least two days of strength or weight-bearing exercise.

Risk factors
Some people are at greater risk for developing colorectal cancer than others. Risk factors include:

  • Age
  • High-fat diet
  • Heavy alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • High consumption of red meats and processed meats
  • Ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
  • Very overweight or obese

In addition to eating right and exercising, it is important to be screened to identify any colon problems before they develop into cancer. You should be screened if you are age 50 or older. A colonoscopy allows your doctor to look at the inner lining of your large intestine through a thin, flexible tube. The test helps find ulcers, colon polyps, tumors and areas of inflammation and bleeding.

Your doctor may suggest you begin screening at a younger age if you have a strong family history of colorectal disease. Talk with your doctor about screening options as well as when and how often you should be tested.