Preventing colorectal cancer

Diet, exercise, weight are key

In 2017, the American Cancer Society predicts the number of deaths in the United States related to colorectal cancer to be approximately 50,260.

That would be similar to 51 percent of the entire population of Lawrence passing away from what is often considered one of the most preventable cancers.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. However, preventive measures and early detection screenings, such as colonoscopies, could prevent six out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“Most colorectal cancers begin as non-cancerous polyps inside the colon,” said Charles Brooks, a gastroenterologist with Lawrence GI Specialists. “A colonoscopy or other screening method locates these polyps so we can remove them for further testing, before they develop into cancer. If cancerous cells are already present, the screening allows us to find the cancer earlier when the disease is easier to treat or possibly cure.”

Screening exams, like a colonoscopy, are recommended for all people at age 50. Those with known risk factors, including a family history of colorectal cancer, being African-American or having inflammatory bowel disease, may need to be screened at an earlier age and more often.

“If the initial screening is clear, a person with no additional risk factors does not need to repeat the test for 10 years,” said Teresa King, gastroenterologist with The Internal Medicine Group. “If a polyp is found and removed, we may recommend more frequent screening from a preventive care or active surveillance standpoint.”

You may be able to lower your risk of colorectal cancer by incorporating these activities into your lifestyle:

• Eat a low-fat, high-fiber diet with numerous fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit red meat and processed meats.

• Exercise regularly for at least 20 minutes, four days a week.

• Avoid weight gain or obesity. Having more belly fat or a larger waistline has been linked to colorectal cancer.

• Drink alcohol only in moderation, if you drink at all. If you use tobacco, quit. Alcohol and tobacco in combination are linked to many colorectal and other gastrointestinal cancers.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital has two sites in Lawrence where colonoscopies are performed: the LMH Endoscopy Center at the main campus, 325 Maine St.; and the LMH West Endoscopy Center at 4525 W. Sixth St. If you are 50 or older or have other risk factors, talk with your primary care provider about colon cancer screening.

—Amy Northrop is physician liaison manager at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at


Julie Rea 1 year, 2 months ago

Knew of a vegetarian that contracted colorectal cancer, in spite of excellent diet. Just being hypervigilant can be as important as diet and exercise, in my opinion.

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 2 months ago

You've neglected family history. My father and my maternal grandmother both died of colon cancer. I'm on a 3 year schedule for colonoscopies, and last time the 4 polyps that were removed all had lumps that turned out to be benign upon biopsy. But, there's no telling if they would have become cancerous later.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.