As 2024 begins, you may make New Year’s resolutions in an effort to improve your life going forward.
Two popular resolutions — to lose weight and to exercise more — may have greater health significance than you realize.
Being overweight is linked to a higher chance of developing at least 13 types of cancer, according to a recent Clinical Practice Statement by the Obesity Medicine Association (OMA).
Risk factors for colon and rectal cancer include being overweight or living with obesity, eating a high-fat diet and living a sedentary lifestyle.
Losing weight and increasing physical activity may help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC).
Obesity Is Linked to Colon Cancer
“Obesity is second only to cigarette smoking as the most common preventable cause of cancer,” the OMA reports. “For nonsmokers, obesity is considered the single most common preventable cause of cancer, especially when accompanied by unhealthful nutrition and physical inactivity.”
The OMA reports an increase in body weight may be contributing to a rise in cancer among young adults. One in 260 people will get colon cancer before they turn 50, according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. This is called early-onset or young-onset CRC.
By 2030, about 10.9 percent of all colon cancers and 22.9 percent of all rectal cancers are expected to affect patients younger than 50.
Maintain or Achieve a Healthy Weight
Healthcare providers use Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist circumference as screening tools to assess a person’s weight status and its potential impact on disease risk.
“Maintaining a healthy weight has a preventive role. Intentional weight loss of more than 5 percent of body weight has been associated with a lower risk for obesity-related cancers,” writes Monu Khanna, MD, in Healio.
Dr. Khanna emphasized it is important for people to know about obesity as a cancer risk factor.
“Although cancer has many risk factors, managing one’s weight effectively is an essential step in keeping that risk minimal,” Dr. Khanna wrote in Healio.
By making healthy lifestyle choices, like eating healthy foods and exercising, you can achieve a healthy weight.
“Eating a diet centered around “real foods,” including protein and lots of fiber from non-starchy vegetables, eliminating ultra processed foods, avoiding sugary drinks and managing stress and sleep, are all important,” Dr. Khanna wrote in Healio.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week to maintain your weight. To lose weight, you may need to exercise more and eat fewer calories. Consult your doctor before starting any weight loss or exercise programs. The CDC recommends the following:
- Walking briskly (a 15-minute mile)
- Light yard work (raking/bagging leaves or using a lawn mower)
- Light snow shoveling
- Actively playing with children
- Biking at a casual pace
- Swimming laps
- Rollerblading/inline skating at a brisk pace
- Cross-country skiing
- Most competitive sports (football, basketball or soccer)
- Jumping rope
“Being physically active can improve your brain health, reduce the risk of disease, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve your ability to do everyday activities,” according to the CDC.
45? Get Screened for Colon Cancer
More than any diet or exercise regimen, screening for colorectal cancer offers the best prevention against the disease. Screenings save thousands of lives every year.
For people at average risk for colon cancer, healthcare agencies recommend starting screenings at 45, even if you don’t have symptoms. If you have a family history of CRC, you may need to be screened earlier. And if you have digestive symptoms, you should see your doctor regardless of your age.
Delaying or avoiding cancer screenings may be detrimental to your health.
Colonoscopy Is a Key Preventive Measure for CRC
Colorectal cancer almost always begins with a polyp, a small cluster of cells on the lining of the large intestine (colon) or rectum.
Although there are several screening options, colonoscopy is the most thorough. The procedure helps doctors see the whole colon to check for cancerous polyps or ones that could turn into cancer.
Your doctor can often remove small precancerous polyps during your colonoscopy so they will not develop into cancer.
Anyone with digestive system issues like inflammatory bowel disease should be considered for colonoscopy screening regardless of age.
Most insurance plans provide coverage for a screening colonoscopy for patients 45 and older. Call your health insurance company to confirm your coverage.
Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, beginning screenings at 45 may potentially prevent 60 percent of deaths caused by colon cancer.
If you are 45 or older, regardless of your weight, you should make a resolution to get healthy and discuss scheduling a colon cancer screening with your doctor.