Exercise Your Way to a Lower Colon Cancer Risk

It’s no secret that exercise reduces your risk of heart and respiratory diseases.  But did you know that running, walking, playing tennis, swimming or whatever exercise you prefer can help prevent colon cancer?

Numerous studies indicate that regular exercise can reduce your risk of colon cancer by as much as 40 per cent.  One study at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston included the collection of data from more than 150,000 men and women over a period of three decades.  Researchers found that cancer of the colon or rectum was far less common among people who exercised for 30 minutes several times a week, compared to those who led a sedentary lifestyle.

Another study, this one at the University of Vermont, also concluded that exercise lowers the risk of colon cancer.  Researchers studied 17,000 middle age men and found that those who exercise regularly and kept their weight down were 38 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with the disease.

It’s unclear why exercise lowers the risk of colon cancer, but these two studies and many others indicate the connection is unmistakable.  Research also shows that cancer patients who exercise regularly are less likely to die from several types of the disease.

As we come to the end of March, designated as Colon Cancer Awareness Month, it’s vital to remember that nothing can eliminate the risk of coming down with the disease.  So, even if you live a physically active lifestyle, you shouldn’t run away from colonoscopies and other forms of colon cancer screenings.  They can lead to prevention and early detection of the disease and make it much more likely that your healthy lifestyle will continue for many years to come.

Beating Colon Cancer

Colon Cancer will kill an estimated 50,000 Americans in 2015.  That sad prediction comes from the American Cancer Society.  It is especially tragic because early screening for the disease would have saved the lives of many of those who will lose their battle against Colon Cancer this year.

March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.  We need to focus on this disease because it is one of those cancers that can often be prevented.  A colonoscopy can find precancerous polyps in the colon or rectum.  The polyps are then removed before they develop into cancer.  If the screening leads to the discovery of colon cancer in its early stage, treatment often leads to a cure.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 90 per cent of patients whose colon cancers are found and treated early are still alive five years later.

Who should get screened for Colon Cancer?  In general, men and women should get a colonoscopy at the age of 50.  Patients with certain medical issues or family history of the disease need to be screened earlier.  The CDC currently recommends colonoscopies or other screenings at regular intervals until the age of 75.  Your doctor may advise screening beyond 75, depending on your medical history.

Thanks to increased screening, the American Cancer Society says the number of Colon Cancer deaths in the United States has been declining for two decades.  Even so, an estimated 130,000 new cases of the disease will be diagnosed this year.  Screening will lead to the discovery of some of those cases in time for the patient’s life to be saved.  Tragically, many other patients who had never been screened will have no such reprieve.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  Have you had your colonoscopy yet?

Making a Difference

As a cancer surgeon and research scientist, my life’s work is geared toward fighting the disease in the operating room and the laboratory.  My life in medicine has been a true blessing for me and my family.  It has introduced me to people and organizations making a remarkable difference in and out of the medical community.

For more than half a century, The Women’s Home has stood out as one of those amazing institutions, serving women in crisis in the Houston community.   The Home provides a wide range of services, including residential care, vocational training and spiritual development.  The Home’s staff also offers nurse practitioner care and treatment for chemical dependency and mental health issues.

The success of The Women’s Home has been recognized by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  That organization has invited the Home to take part in a national workgroup that identifies the most effective methods of providing sober treatment and housing for homeless women.  The Home is one of 15 agencies in the United States to receive this recognition from SAMHSA and the only one in Texas.

The Women’s Home also operates one of Houston’s premier resale stores, The Cottage Shop.  Established in 1971, The Cottage Shop serves as a training center for residents and offers a wide selection of gently used clothing, accessories, furniture and household goods.

It’s been an honor for me and my wife, Natalie, to serve as volunteers with The Women’s Home.  We invite you to attend three upcoming events:  The Women’s Home Annual Crawfish Boil on March 28th, the Men & Women’s Invitational Golf Tournament April 6th, and the Afternoon Tea with best-selling author Barbara Taylor Bradford April 8th.  You can learn much more about these events and programs available at The Women’s Home by clicking on this link.