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Simple Lifestyle Changes Can Reduce Risk for Colorectal Cancer

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There are some simple lifestyle changes that you can make that may help prevent colorectal cancer. NY1's Jill Urban filed the following report.

It's the second-leading cause of death from cancer in the U.S., but it's also highly preventable.

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a time to remind people what they can do to prevent the deadly disease.

"Many people know about colonoscopies as preventing colon cancer, but modifying your lifestyle and practicing a healthy lifestyle can actually decrease your risk," says Dr. Gina Sam of Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Sam says that healthy habits are key to prevention. First, watch your weight. She says you should maintain a healthy diet that is high in fiber to help clear the colon, and limit red meat because of its high fat content.

Also, smoking has been linked to colon cancer, so kicking the habit can reduce your risk. The same goes for alcohol.

"Alcohol can increase your risk, so we suggest decreasing alcohol intake," Sam says. "For males, that means two drinks or less daily, and for women, that's one drink or less daily."

She also recommends a regular exercise routine and certain vitamins.

"Supplementing with calcium and Vitamin D has been shown to decrease your risk," she says. "You can get these from yogurt, milk products, low-fat cheeses, and you can also take a multivitamin over the counter."

Of course, there's also screening. A colonoscopy is one of the top reasons that this type of cancer is so preventable.

Sharon Hamlin is a patient who is considered high-risk. She is working hard to incorporate healthy habits, and is encouraging others to get that colonoscopy.

"Just do it. It's not as bad as it seems," she says. "As long as you have the right doctor, they explain everything to you, and you just get it done, and I really didn't have any side effects."

Doctors say you should have a colon cancer screening annually once you hit age 50 unless you are high-risk. If you have a history of colon cancer or polyps, or if you're African-American, you should get a colonoscopy sooner. The results of your first colonoscopy will determine how often you need to be screened.

For more information about colorectal cancer awareness, visit ccalliance.org.

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