While genetics play a role, “the more we live unhealthy lifestyles, the greater the risk of developing something like a polyp that will become a tumor or a cancer,” says Dr. Crawford. Particularly if you have a family history of colorectal cancer, it’s important to take control of your health. Here are the factors that Dr. Crawford highlights:
Diet and exercise: One of the best things you can do to reduce the risk of disease overall is to follow a good diet and exercise regularly. “Among other things, diet and exercise decrease your risk for diabetes, and diabetes in particular may carry a higher risk for the development of cancers because high levels of insulin, which is a growth factor, can fuel the growth of abnormal cells,” says Dr. Crawford.
Research shows a link between diet and colorectal cancer. Avoid highly processed foods and opt for brightly colored fruits and vegetables instead. “Food additives, like fragrances, flavorings, and preservatives, have been shown to do a couple of things inside of the GI tract, like alter normal gut bacteria and fuel the growth of tumors,” says Dr. Crawford.
Smoking: Don’t smoke. “Cigarettes or tobacco is like an accelerant to a fire,” says Dr. Crawford. “There are an unknown number of carcinogens that are in that kind of smoke that can damage DNA and alter the course of a damaged cell.”
Sleep: Dr. Crawford emphasizes the importance of sleep and giving your body time to power down after eating. “Eating before bed increases certain kinds of hormones that are responsible for digestion rather than shifting them to those of a repair state,” he says. “Most of your body’s ability to repair itself happens in deep sleep. Eating too close to sleep alters the normal hormonal balance and circadian rhythms that are needed for the body to repair itself.”