So weird, but while colorectal cancer rates have dropped significantly for older Americans, they're on the rise in younger people.
"Millennials have at least a twofold increased risk of getting colon cancer and a fourfold increased risk of rectal cancer," says Anton Bilchik, MD, PhD, professor of surgery and chief of gastrointestinal research at John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.
"No one knows the precise cause," Dr. Bilchik adds, but much evidence points to the usual suspects: obesity, crappy diet, not getting enough exercise...
If you're in good health and colorectal cancers don't run in your family, don't worry. "You don't have to run out and get a colonoscopy," assures Dr. Bilchik.
But here's what you should be doing to take care of your colon:
1. Watch your weight.
"Obesity is a major problem in the US and is linked to many cancers," says Dr. Bilchik. People who are obese are about 30 percent more likely to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
2. Stop eating so much meat.
"If you have BBQ, steaks, and salami on a regular basis, that does raise your risk of colon cancer," says Dr. Bilchik.
There is some good news, though. "Eating meat more than once a week doesn't raise your risk," he adds. "Meat's high in iron and other nutrients so you don't have to completely avoid it."
Unless, of course, you're a vegetarian.
3. Quit smoking.
Like, yesterday. Long-term heavy cigarette use = an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
More from CafeMom: I Was Diagnosed with Colon Cancer at 31 While 7 Months Pregnant
4. Start drinking gin & tonics without the gin.
Heavy drinking doesn't just do a number on your liver. It ups your chances of getting colon and rectal cancers. Although this risk is more pronounced in men, the link exists in women as well.
5. Move around more than you are.
The power of exercise, ladies! Hate the elliptical? Then find another activity you DO love, even if it's running with friends while you complain about how much you hate running.
Aim for 3.5–4 hours of exercise each week to protect yourself from colorectal cancer.
6. Watch for signs that something ain't right.
"If you're having symptoms like persistent abdominal pain, rectal bleeding, or weight loss, talk to a doctor," says Dr. Bilchik.
No one looks forward to a colonoscopy. But if getting one will save your life, we bet you can deal.