FDA Warns Colorectal Cancer Is on the Rise—Here's 4 Ways to Lower Your Risk

This disease is now developing more and more in younger adults.

Colorectal cancer—otherwise known as colon or rectal cancer—used to be something you only needed to worry about once you reached the latter half of your life. This is no longer the case, however. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) reports that while colorectal cancer rates are falling among older adults, they're actually rising for adults who are in their 40s, or even younger. "Cancer of any type is rare in people under 50, but the numbers show that colorectal cancer is no longer just a disease of older adults," the agency warns.

The best way to beat colorectal cancer is to get screened for it, according to the FDA. Colorectal cancer screenings can help catch polyps or other precancerous growths in your rectum or colon, which is how this disease typically starts. But there are also ways you can start reducing your chances of developing those growths in the first place.

Read on to find out the four ways the FDA says you can lower your risk of colorectal cancer.

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1
Drink less alcohol.

Young people having fun at home party. Toasting with beer and enjoying the party
iStock

Putting the bottle down could help prevent colorectal cancer. According to the FDA, studies have determined that drinking three or more alcoholic drinks every day can increase your risk of colorectal cancer by a staggering 41 percent.

"Ethanol, the type of alcohol found in commonly consumed drinks such as beer, wine, and spirits, acts an irritant to mucosal linings of the GI tract, including the mouth, esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestine," Kyle S. Eldredge, DO, a board-certified general surgery specialist working as a colorectal surgeon in Florida, tells Best Life. "The byproduct of alcohol causes damage and stress to cells and can even damage DNA inside cells. This can lead to abnormal function of cells and development of cancer."

2
Move your body more.

Woman exercising outside with a group of people.
Ground Picture / Shutterstock

Research also points to the potential benefits of increased physical activity. According to the FDA, studies indicate that regular exercise can lower a person's risk of colorectal cancer by 24 percent. "For substantial health benefits, experts recommend doing 30 to 60 minutes of exercise most days of the week," the agency said. "Exercise can include everyday activities like walking a dog, doing chores around the house, or using the stairs."

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3
Don't smoke.

woman snapping a cigarette in half and quitting smoking, look better after 40
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Most people know about tobacco's affect on lung cancer. But this is not the only disease smoking can cause. As the FDA explained, studies also show that people who use tobacco have an 18 percent higher risk of colorectal cancer as well. "Similar to excessive alcohol intake, smoking can cause DNA damage to the intestinal walls, increase inflammation, and cause impaired immunity," Soma Mandal, MD, a board-certified internist at Summit Health in New Jersey, explains.

According to Mandal, tobacco use can also change your gut microbiome and affect your nutrient intake which may help to increase your risk of colon cancer. "Smoking can cause nutrient malabsorption, such as calcium and vitamin D deficiency," she says. "These nutrients are important for maintaining a healthy colon."

4
Maintain a healthy weight.

scale with measuring tape
279photo Studio / Shutterstock

Along with increased physical activity, it's also important to maintain a healthy weight. "Obesity is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and death from colorectal cancer," the National Institute of Health's Cancer Institute warns on its website. The FDA adds that studies have found that in particular, women with obesity have a 45 percent higher risk of getting this disease and dying from it.

"Maintaining a healthy weight may help by avoiding insulin resistance that can develop when you are overweight," says Jill Barat, PharmD, a registered pharmacist with nearly 10 years of experience. "With insulin resistance, the body responds by making more insulin, which can ramp up unwanted growth factor signaling and cancer cell growth."

Best Life offers the most up-to-date information from top experts, new research, and health agencies, but our content is not meant to be a substitute for professional guidance.When it comes to the medication you're taking or any other health questions you have, always consult your healthcare provider directly.

Kali Coleman
Kali Coleman is a Senior Editor at Best Life. Her primary focus is covering news, where she often keeps readers informed on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and up-to-date on the latest retail closures. Read more
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