DR. ISLAM: The when, what and why of colon healthDr. Rafiul Sameer Islam was born in Malone, N.Y., but grew up in his hometown of Odessa. He completed both his medical degree and masters of business association. Call his office at 806-761-0747 to schedule an appointment or visit his website www.sameerislam.com.

Colon cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States in both men and women. That is quite a startling statistic. Ninety percent of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in those older than 50 years of age, which is why it is recommended that the average adult begin colon health screening at 50 years old. Wouldn’t it be great if there were a colon health crystal ball that could show you your risks?

What can I do to reduce my risks?

Well, it may not be a crystal ball but research does show us what are common risk factors for colon cancer and therefore how to help prevent it.
Fortunately most of the things that put us at risk for colon cancer are related to our lifestyles, and are easy to modify. Diet plays a huge part in your colon cancer risk. Those who eat a low fiber/high fat diet are much more likely to develop colon cancer over those who eat healthier with more fiber, fruits and vegetables, and less high fat processed foods. We are not saying that you shouldn’t ever eat “bad” foods again, but limiting them in your daily life is a much healthier choice.
A lack of regular exercise and a sedentary lifestyle also increase your risk.
Exercising a few times a week is great but you should strive to have activity throughout the day for a less sedentary life. Needlessly, obesity is a risk factor, so by eating better and increasing your activity, you will lose weight and decrease your personal risk. Excessive alcohol use and smoking are both risk factors. Limit your alcohol intake by both quantity at one time and by how often you drink to decrease your risk. And stop smoking!

What are nonmodifi able risks?

There are risk factors that are nonmodifi able, meaning you can’t change them to decrease your risk. People with a personal or family history of colon cancer or Lynch syndrome are more likely to develop colon cancer. Inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis increase your risk due to the constant inflammation of the colon. Age and race can also play a huge part in your personal risks. These types of conditions may mean you need to start colon health screenings at an earlier age. If you are 50 or older and have never had a colonoscopy, contact your healthcare provider today for an appointment. Together, you can determine what type of screening is right for you and at what age to begin. Don’t put your health on hold for another year.