Can You Prevent Colon Cancer?

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Can You Prevent Colon Cancer?

Nearly 100,000 Americans will get diagnosed with colon cancer this year, making it one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in both men and women. And while our ability to diagnose and treat colon cancer has improved greatly over the decades, the question of whether there’s anything you can do to actually prevent getting it remains an important focus of current research.

Based on the knowledge we have today, there is no definitive way to prevent colon cancer. There are, however, a number of actions that have been clinically proven to reduce your risk or to increase your likelihood of survival if you do get colon cancer.


Being obese makes you up to 30 percent more likely to develop colorectal cancer (or cancer that develops in either the colon or the rectum) than people at a normal weight. Daily exercise in combination with a healthy diet can help you keep your weight down and keep you within a normal risk.


Many studies have suggested that eating too much red meat can increase your chances of developing colon cancer. This is because when consuming high amounts of fat, your body pumps more bile acids into your digestive tract. By the time these acids reach your colon, they may be converted into secondary bile acids, which promote tumor growth. In order to maintain a colon-friendly diet, make sure to limit your red meat consumption to less than 18 ounces a week and, instead, focus on filling your plate with a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables.


The carcinogens found in cigarette smoke are thought to cause damage to your DNA. Over time, your body’s ability to repair this otherwise healthy DNA may diminish and leave you at a higher risk of developing cancerous polyps in your large intestine. While it does take some time for the body to return to average risk after quitting, it’s never too late to quit smoking.

Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)

Some evidence suggests that the regular use of aspirin may reduce the occurrence of polyps. These studies are still debated though, and the daily use of aspirin does have some risks. Be sure to talk to your doctor before beginning any aspirin regimen.

Aside from maintaining a healthy lifestyle, one of the best defenses you can take against colon cancer is to practice early detection. Regular colonoscopies can prevent many cancer occurrences by identifying polyps that are noncancerous before they become cancerous. If you are over the age of 50 (45 for African Americans) you should get a colonoscopy every ten years, unless otherwise recommended by your doctor.

To learn more about colon cancer or to show your support for those who have colon cancer, join us for the annual Get Your Rear In Gear 5K on April 1 at Pennington Biomedical Center. Online race registration is open until March 28.

About Dr. Finan

Dr. Finan obtained her bachelors degree in Zoology at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio and then went on to obtain her doctorate of medicine from the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio. She completed her General Surgery Residency at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, AL, where she also conducted quality outcomes research and earned a masters of Science in Public Health. Dr. Finan then went on to complete her Colorectal Fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis, MO. Learn more about Dr. Finan or schedule an appointment by calling (225) 767-1156.

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