Reducing Your Risk for Colon Cancer

Dec 13, 2021 | 2021, Health and Wellness

Colon cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society. Although there’s no proven way to prevent colon cancer, people can take steps each day to protect colorectal health through positive lifestyle choices and getting screened for early detection. Colon cancer, if caught early, is highly treatable and can often be cured, with the chance for survival as high as 90%.

Getting Screened
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends adults be screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 45 and every 10 years after. Through screening, colon cancer can be detected before symptoms develop. Other preventive care screenings only detect cancer, while a colonoscopy screening is designed to detect precancerous polyps in the colon so they can be removed before becoming cancerous.

Depending on age, Sutter Health Plus members may have access to preventive colonoscopy screenings at no cost share when provided by a participating provider. If diagnostic care is provided—involving evaluation and treatment of known or suspected conditions—members may incur out-of-pocket costs based on their health plan coverage.

Colorectal cancer screenings are not limited to colonoscopies. Below are additional screening types that may be covered as preventive care. Talk with a provider about what is right for you.

  • Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) every year
  • Sigmoidoscopy every 10 years combined with FIT every year
  • CT colonography every five years
  • FIT/DNA Test every one to three years

Eating a Healthy Diet
According to a report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund, there is strong evidence that eating a well-balanced diet of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products may reduce the risk of developing colon cancer. Cutting down on fat and sugar may also help mitigate risk.

Additionally, the report found that participants who ate more meat increased their likelihood of being diagnosed with colon cancer. Eating red meats, processed meats, and fried meats may pose an increased risk and should be consumed in moderation or avoided.

Exercising and Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Research cited by the National Cancer Institute suggests individuals who engaged in the highest levels of physical activity had a 19% lower risk of colon cancer than those who were least physically active. Being physically active also helps with managing weight and obesity, another risk factor for colon cancer. Adults should strive for 150 to 300 (about 30 to 60 minutes per day) minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week, or a combination of these for substantial health benefits.

Limiting Alcohol
Consuming three or more alcoholic drinks per day is linked to an increased risk for colon cancer. Sutter Health Plus members who struggle with substance use may self-refer to secure virtual or in-person visits for substance use disorder services through U.S. Behavioral Health Plan, California. Call 855-202-0984 or visit to learn more.

Quitting Smoking
Research suggests that smoking 40 cigarettes (two packs) a day increases the risk of colon cancer by about 40%—and nearly doubles the risk for mortality. Reaching out for help can be the first step toward quitting smoking.
Sutter Health Plus members have access to a Health Coaching program offering one-on-one support by phone for maintaining a healthy weight and tobacco cessation and at no cost share. To learn more, call the coaching team at 866-961-8513 or visit

Sources include American Cancer Society; American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund; National Cancer Institute; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

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