March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

During the month of March, we’re urging folks to educate themselves about their risk factors and preventative measures of colorectal cancer during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of death from cancer. Colorectal cancer affects people in all racial and ethnic groups and is most often found in people age 50 and older. But if everyone age 50 and older were screened regularly, 6 out of 10 deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.


According to the American Cancer Society, “Colorectal cancer is a cancer that starts in the colon or the rectum. These cancers can also be named colon cancer or rectal cancer, depending on where they start. Colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together because they have many features in common.” Colorectal cancer often begins with a growth known as a polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Not all polyps become cancerous, but some types of polyps have an increased chance of changing into cancer. Hyperplastic polyps and inflammatory polyps are common, but in general are not pre-cancerous. Adenomas are a type of polyp that can sometimes change into cancer, which is why they are known as a “precaution-cancerous condition”. Your chances of eventually developing colorectal cancer increases if the polyp is larger than one centimeter, if more than two polyps are found, and if dysplasia is seen in the polyp after it is removed. Dysplasia is another pre-cancerous condition in which an area in the lining of the colon or rectum have cells that look abnormal. If cancer forms in a polyp, it can eventually begin to grow into the wall of the colon or rectum.


According to the American Cancer Society, “The wall of the colon and rectum is made up of several layers. Colorectal cancer starts in the innermost layer (the mucosa) and can grow outward through some or all of the other layers. When cancer cells are in the wall, they can then grow into blood vessels or lymph vessels (tiny channels that carry away waste and fluid). From there, they can travel to nearby lymph nodes or to distant parts of the body. The stage (extent of spread) of a colorectal cancer depends on how deeply it grows into the wall and if it has spread outside the colon or rectum.”

What are the Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer?

According to the CDC, your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. In fact, more than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. There are other genetic and environmental risk factors as well:

  • A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
  • A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
  • Lack of regular physical activity.
  • A diet low in fruit and vegetables.
  • A low-fiber and high-fat diet.
  • Overweight and obesity.
  • Alcohol consumption.
  • Tobacco use.

How Can Exercise Help Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

According to the National Cancer Institute, “There is substantial evidence that higher levels of physical activity are linked to lower risks of several cancers. Colon cancer is one of the most extensively studied cancers in relation to physical activity. A 2009 meta-analysis of 52 epidemiologic studies that examined the association between physical activity and colon cancer risk found that the most physically active individuals had a 24% lower risk of colon cancer than those who were the least physically active. A pooled analysis of data on leisure-time physical activity (activities done at an individual’s discretion generally to improve or maintain fitness or health) from 12 prospective U.S. and European cohort studies reported a risk reduction of 16%, when comparing individuals who were most active to those where least active. Incidence of both distal colonand proximal colon cancers is lower in people who are more physically active than in those who are less physically active. Physical activity is also associated with a decreased risk of colon adenomas (polyps), a type of colon polyp that may develop into colon cancer. However, it is less clear whether physical activity is associated with lower risks that polyps that have been removed will come back.”

In order to decrease your risk of developing colorectal cancer, start your workout regimen with a qualified trainer at Vertex Fitness personal training studio.


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