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For the moms: 6 easy steps to help prevent colon cancer

Washington University School of Medicine

As a mom, you’re pretty much a superhero. You get the kids ready for school, take them to soccer practice, cook them dinner, read them bedtime stories, and give them all the love you have in your heart – all while juggling your job, your finances, your marriage or your single life, your role as a caretaker for a sick family member, even your own health. Yes, moms certainly have superpowers – but when it comes to your health, it’s important to remember that you aren’t invincible.

With March being Colon Cancer Awareness Month, it’s the perfect time to start talking about how you can reduce your risk of colon cancer. While it’s pretty common (being the third most common cancer in the U.S.), it’s also one of the most preventable and treatable cancers.

As a mom, you might be thinking, “I can’t fit even one more thing into my schedule right now. There’s no way I can take on a whole cancer prevention plan!” Trust us, moms, we hear how busy you are. That’s why we’ve put together a list of super practical steps you can take to reduce your colon cancer risk without adding more to your plate.


1. Get screened

The single best way to prevent colon cancer is getting regular screenings. And if you think you don’t need to get screened because you don’t have symptoms, think again! Screening tests actually look for cancer before signs and symptoms develop.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends that people at average risk for colon cancer start screening at age 45. For people at higher risk, the ACS recommends starting screening 10 years before the age of the youngest member in your family to be diagnosed.

You are considered at higher risk if you have:

  • A personal or family history of colon cancer or polyps.
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease).
  • A hereditary cancer syndrome (familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome).
  • A personal history of radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area to treat a prior cancer.

Screening tests

There are a number of tests that may be used to screen for colon cancer including colonoscopy, virtual colonoscopy, and at-home stool tests. Your doctor will be able to help you decide which screening test may be best for you based on your age, risk factors, overall health, and personal preferences.

2. Maintain a healthy weightExercise2

Did you know that being overweight or obese has been linked to an increased risk of 13 types of cancer, including colon cancer? Avoiding sugary drinks, keeping a food diary, or incorporating small amounts of physical activity into your day are just a few ways you can start working towards a healthier weight.

3. Get regular exercise

Being more physically active can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. Don’t worry – you don’t need to start running marathons to see benefits! You can start with something as small as a walk to the end of the block and back, then build up to a neighborhood stroll over time. Whether it’s taking walking breaks during your workday or going on a bike ride with the kids in the evening, all that matters is that you get moving!

4. Eat a healthy diet

Eating a diet that’s rich in whole grains and fiber can lower your colon cancer risk. Here are some quick tips for how to make your diet a bit healthier:

  • Focus on fruits, veggies, beans, and whole-grain foods, like whole-wheat bread and whole-grain cereals and pastas.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, nuts, beans, and greens. For vitamin D, consider adding eggs, fatty fish (like tuna), and fortified dairy products to your diet.
  • Limit your intake of red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs and some lunch meats), since these have been linked to an increased risk of colon cancer.

And here’s another good reason to opt for those healthier foods: teaching your kids healthy habits now may help prevent them from getting cancer down the road. While your kids might not want to give up some of their favorite foods (goodbye, sugary cereal!), there are plenty of healthy alternatives that taste great to boot.

5. Avoid alcohol (zero is best!)

Alcohol is a big risk factor for colon cancer, so it’s best to avoid it altogether. If you do drink, the ACS recommends that women have no more than one drink a day.

6. Don’t smoke

Smoking is known to cause heart disease, stroke, lung problems, and 15 different cancers, including colon cancer. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. The benefits start almost immediately after your last cigarette. If you’re struggling to quit, don’t lose hope – there isn’t any shame in needing a little help. Siteman’s Smoking Cessation Program can provide you with expert advice and innovative resources to lead you to a healthier future.

While there’s no guaranteed way to prevent colon cancer, adopting these healthy lifestyle habits can keep your colon healthy and reduce your risk (as well as your children’s risk) of developing cancer. By taking these steps now, you’re giving yourself the chance to be an even stronger superhero in the future.

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