Get screened for colon cancer beginning at age 45

Riverwood Healthcare Center joins the American Cancer Society in recognizing National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March. Screening is key to preventing colon cancer or detecting it early. You may lower your risk by also managing your diet and adding physical activity into your daily routines.

Prompted by a recent alarming rise in cases of colorectal cancer in people younger than 50, the age criteria for when a person should start screening for colorectal cancer has changed from age 50 to 45.

Several types of tests can be used. Talk to your health care provider about which ones might be good options for you. No matter what you and your provider together choose, the most important thing is to get screened.

From the time the first abnormal cells start to grow into polyps, it usually takes about 10 to 15 years for them to develop into colorectal cancer. With regular screening, most polyps can be found and removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early when it’s small and easier to treat.

Dr. Chris Hughes, Primary Care Physician in the Aitkin Clinic adds, “If you are age 45 or older, you should start getting screened for colorectal cancer. As a primary care provider, I urge you to schedule your annual exam and screening. Don’t delay as screenings do save lives with early detection.”

There’s no sure way to prevent colon cancer, but there are things you can do to lower your risk for this common disease.

EAT HEALTHY: Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will lower your overall risk for cancer. To prevent colon cancer, limit your consumption of red and processed meats (bacon, hamburger, sausage, hotdogs) and other foods with a high fat content (French fries, chips). Eating foods with high fiber will help too.

STAY ACTIVE: Aim for exercising or walking at least 30 minutes/day. Make it fun doing an activity you enjoy like dancing, walking with a friend, or trying a new sport. Check with your doctor before beginning any strenuous exercise routine. 

QUIT TOBACCO:  Long-term cigarette smoking is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, even after accounting for known risk factors such as race, body mass index, and a family history of the disease, according to a new study by American Cancer Society.

LIMIT ALCOHOL USE: Alcohol use has been linked with a higher risk of cancers of the colon and rectum. If you drink alcohol, limit how much you drink. Low to moderate use is usually defined as 1-2 drinks a day for a man or 1 drink a day for a woman.

For more information on preventing colon cancer, go to and look for colon and rectum cancer.