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A Reminder During Colon Cancer Awareness Month: Simple Steps to Help Avoid Colon Cancer

Are you due for a colonoscopy? It’s not the most pleasant procedure, but it might be one of the most important — especially if you have a family history of colon cancer.

Colon and rectal cancer, also known as colorectal cancer, affects both men and women, and all racial and ethnic groups. Often, there are no warning signs or symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage, which is why routine screenings are so important.

If you’re at average risk for developing the disease, the American Cancer Society recommends having your first colonoscopy at age 45, with rescreening every 10 years (or more frequently depending on your results). If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your screenings should begin at a younger age and occur more frequently.

Colorectal cancer often begins as abnormal cells called polyps. These growths are noncancerous at first but can develop into colorectal cancer in 10 to 15 years — or in some cases sooner depending on how aggressive they are. If found, polyps can be removed quickly during the colonoscopy procedure, and that’s far preferable to any cancer treatment that might otherwise have been needed down the road.

Eating a healthy diet can help prevent colorectal cancer. In fact, recent studies have shown a link between ultra-processed foods and colon cancer — especially in men. These foods contain artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners and preservatives and eliminating them from your diet is a great step toward better health. Foods to avoid include:

· Frozen, microwave-ready meals

· Cold cuts

· Soda

· Prepackaged snacks and sweets

A diet made up of fruits, vegetables, calcium, lean meats and foods that are high in fiber will help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer and help with weight management. Replace sugary beverages like soda and energy drinks with water, make sure you get enough sleep and engage in moderate to vigorous activity daily — and do I even have to mention alcohol and smoking?

Drinking excessively and long-term smoking can not only cause colorectal cancer, but several other cancers as well. Quitting smoking, even if you smoked frequently in the past, is a huge step toward prevention.

Following these simple steps will help you take charge of your health. And if you’re due for a colonoscopy, I urge you to schedule one soon — I really cannot overstress the importance of early detection.

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