Healthy Living: Colon cancer risk factors increasing in millennials

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More than 50,000 Americans are battling colorectal cancer. 1 in 22 men and 1 in 23 women in the United States will have colon cancer in their life, that's according to the American Cancer Society. 

A new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association shows conditions like Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, diabetes and obesity are all linked to an increased risk for colon cancer. 

“Alarmingly, these same risk factors are increasing 35 to 100% in the Millennial population."

Dr. Drew Oliveira is the senior executive medical director with Regence BlueShield and he says another shocking find is that 60% of people over the age of 50 are not being screened for colon cancer. He says it is happening for a variety of reasons. 

"Discomfort, not wanting to find out if they have cancer, not being referred, and yet colorectal cancer among that same age group, that 50 50 55, is increasing 50%."

Dr. Oliveira says that it is incredibly problematic that people are not getting screened earlier in the process, as the earlier it is caught, the more successful the treatment will be. Most health plans do cover annual colon cancer screenings for people over 50 and those with Crohn's or ulcerative colitis when prescribed by a doctor. In the meantime, there are some things he says we can do to keep our risk factors down.

First, maintain a healthy body weight, "Diet, exercise, fruit, vegetables all are important components to being able to maintain that weight."

If you are at risk for getting diabetes, Dr. Oliveira says to limit the number of carbs you consume, "Maybe put yourself on a pre-diabetic diet so you can also help yourself to avoid that risk factor as well."

Finally, the American Cancer Society is saying no alcohol when it comes to reducing our risk for colorectal cancer. Dr. Oliveira says alcohol has been associated with multiple different types of cancer development, "If you must drink, for women, one drink per day. For men, two drinks per day at a maximum."

Dr. Oliveira reminds us to stay healthy during this time, and get screened for colon cancer early!

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