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We have the power to make colorectal cancer a thing of the past – the key lies in screening and prevention. Colonoscopy is an effective way to prevent and detect colon cancer at an early stage.

So why is colorectal cancer the third most common cancer in men and women, and the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States? The answer is partly because only about 60 percent of adults who should be tested for colorectal cancer actually get tested, and partly because of our lifestyle and diet.

Obesity, smoking, red meats, processed meat, high-fat diet and alcohol increase our chances of colon cancer; exercise, vegetables, fruits and fiber protect from the cancer.

The Best Test for Colon Cancer

The reason why colonoscopy remains the best test for colorectal cancer is because it not only detects the cancer, but can prevent it as well. During a colonoscopy, the doctor looks at the entire colon and rectum for polyps that have potential to grow into cancer and removes them.

Who Should Get A Colonoscopy?

Current guidelines recommend that those without a family history of colon cancer should start screening at age 50. African-Americans should begin screening at age 45 due to higher mortality and incidence. If you have a family history, you may need to start sooner. Talk with your doctor to determine the right age for you.

New Options

The “prep” process may stop some people from getting this important screening due to the need to clean out the colon and rectum prior to the procedure. However, newer kits to clean out the bowels are available and may be more tolerable. Your doctor can discuss the options with you.

If you don’t want to do a colonoscopy, there are other options, including newer stool tests. However, the stool tests are more of a cancer detection tool than prevention tool. Also, if the result from one of these stool tests is positive (abnormal), you’ll still need a colonoscopy to see if you have cancer.

While colorectal cancer incidence and death rates have been on the decline thanks to colonoscopy screening, we still can do better by improving our diet and physical activity, and if everyone who should get screened would actually do so.

Weekly Health Tips are brought to you by UCF Health, the College of Medicine’s physician practice. Offering primary and specialty care under one roof, UCF Health treats patients age 16 and up in primary care and age 18 and up for specialty care. Most major insurance plans are accepted. Two locations are now open: the original in East Orlando at Quadrangle and University boulevards just blocks from the main UCF campus, and the newest one in Medical City at Narcoossee Road and Tavistock Lakes Boulevard. Information for both facilities can be found at, or call (407) 266-DOCS to schedule an appointment.

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