Colorectal Cancer Prevention Can Start in Childhood

Through lifestyle choices and preventative screenings, you can play a big role in reducing your risk for colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is now the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among American adults, but it’s largely preventable through colonoscopies, diet, exercise and other personal choices, says The James’ Darrell Gray, MD.

“Prevention starts with healthy behaviors, even in childhood, and ends with routine screening over and over again up until the age of 75."

The U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommends that people without a close family history of colorectal cancer undergo colonoscopies starting at age 50, while the American Cancer Society’s current stance is that the tests should begin at 45. While the conversation about the proper recommendation age continues, there’s no question about the importance of the tests, Gray says.

“It’s unique in that it allows you to look at the entire colon and remove polyps, which could be precancerous lesions,” he says. “So in effect, if you remove a polyp, you could be preventing a cancer.”

To maximize your prevention efforts, Gray recommends combining screening with lifestyle choices, including eating right, working out and avoiding tobacco.

“One, get screened – talk with your health care provider about the age at which you should start screening and what options are best for you. Number two, avoid or stop smoking. We know that smoking is a huge risk factor for colorectal cancer. Also, maintain a healthy weight, which can involve exercise, and then, knowing your family history. That’s part of the battle – talking to your family about risk factors such as polyps or even cancer in the family."