Colorectal cancer

What you can do to prevent colorectal cancer.

What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer, cancer that starts in the colon or rectum, is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in men and women combined in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that this year 106,970 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer, 46,050 will be diagnosed with rectal cancer, and 50,260 will die from this disease.  

We want to encourage you, as part of your Ascension Personalized Care preventative health routine, to get your colon cancer screening. Screening is the number one way you can reduce your risk for colon cancer and rectal cancer. Despite its high incidence, colorectal cancer is unique in that it is one of the most preventable and, if found early, most treatable forms of cancer. Screening is easy. From colonoscopies to at-home stool tests, there's an option for everyone.

What can I do?

  • Get your screening - Every man and woman over the age of 45 should get a screening for colon cancer. If you have other risk factors such as family history, are African-American, have a history of cancer, or are currently having any symptoms you should talk to your doctor about getting a screening before 45.
  • Eat well - Consistent evidence shows diets primarily of vegetables, fruits and other plant foods reduce risk for many diseases, including colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer has also been linked to diets high in red and processed meats. Try to limit your red meat intake to 18 ounces (cooked) per week or less. Try to avoid processed meats, like hot dogs, ham, sausages, etc., if you can.
  • Get your exercise - Adults who increase their physical activity, either in intensity, duration or frequency, can reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer by 30 to 40 percent. It’s estimated that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day is needed to protect against colorectal cancer. 
  • Maintain a healthy weight - Studies show people who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop colon polyps, a possible precursor to cancer, and higher weights are associated with higher polyp risk. Eating well and exercising can help you maintain a healthy weight.
  • Know your family health history - A family history of immediate family members with colorectal cancer or polyps puts you at an increased risk for the disease. If you have a family history, you may need to be screened at age 40, or 10 years before the youngest case in your immediate family, whichever is earlier. Talk to your family about their health history and speak with your doctor about next steps.
  • Avoid alcohol and cigarettes - According to the National Cancer Institute, people who regularly drink 3.5 drinks per day have 1.5 times the risk of developing colorectal cancer as nondrinkers or occasional drinkers. If you do choose to drink, try to limit your consumption. Long-term cigarette smoking is also associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer — the longer a person smokes, the greater the risk for colorectal and other cancers.

Talk to your doctor today about screening options that are right for you. Or schedule an appointment with an in-network Ascension doctor here

This article contains information adapted from the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. For this and more information about colon cancer and prevention, please visit their website at