The links between diet, weight, and exercise and the risk of developing colorectal cancer are some of the strongest for any type of cancer.1
Prevention and early detection
Studies suggest that consuming a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains reduces the risk of colorectal cancers, as can increasing physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco. Along with these healthy behaviors, the most effective way to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer is to routinely get screened to find it early, when treatment works the best.2
If your personal or family history includes certain types of polyps or colorectal cancer, you've had inflammatory bowel disease or radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area for a previous cancer, or a close family member has had hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome or Lynch syndrome, you should start screening before you reach age 45.3 Adults without these risk factors should start screening at age 50, and those older than 75 should ask their doctor if they should be screened.2
Different options to choose from
You can choose from several screening tests to find polyps or colorectal cancer.4 Check out these options, consider your preferences, medical condition, and likelihood you'll get the test, and then talk to your doctor about the right one for you:
Updated February 18, 2021
1 Colorectal cancer risk factors. American Cancer Society Web site. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html. Updated June 29, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.
2 What can I do to reduce my risk of colorectal cancer? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/colorectal/basic_info/prevention.htm. Updated February 10, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020.
3 American Cancer Society guideline for colorectal cancer screening. American Cancer Society Web site. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/acs-recommendations.html. Updated November 17, 2020. Accessed November 30, 2020.
4 Colorectal cancer screening tests. American Cancer Society Web site. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/screening-tests-used.html. Updated June 29, 2020. Accessed December 1, 2020.