Reducing Your Risk of Colon Cancer

Special to the Star

Rio Grande Valley — Colon cancer is not a common topic of conversation, but it is a fairly common type of cancer. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), there will be approximately 101,420 new cases of colon cancer in 2019. When coupled with rectal cancer, which accounts for about 44,180 new cases annually, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer found in men and women, excluding skin cancers. Valley Baptist Health System reminds the community to advocate for your health and get screened.

Colon cancer has no single cause. Some people have a higher risk of developing colon cancer because this form of the disease tends to run in families. Others who are diagnosed with the disease have a personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer, inflammatory bowel disease such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, or certain inherited gene changes that can cause the disease. Being over the age of 45 and African American also can increase the risk of developing colon cancer.

“It’s important that our community is aware the age of screening has changed to 45,” said Dr. VijianDhevan, General Surgeon for Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen. “By leading a healthy lifestyle and being checked regularly by your doctor can put you at less risk for colon cancer.”

So, what can you do to reduce your risk of colon cancer? Plenty. While you cannot control your age, race or family history, there are a number of lifestyle-related steps you can take to help prevent the disease.

• Eat more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits daily. Avoid a diet that is high in red meats, such as beef or lamb, and processed meats, including hot dogs. Opt for whole grains instead of refined grains, and limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women and two per day for men.

• Exercise. The ACS recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity for adults on five or more days of the week.

• Manage your weight. While being overweight or obese increases the risk for colon cancer in both men and women, this risk tends to be stronger in men.

• Don’t smoke. Some of the substances from smoking that can cause cancer are swallowed and can increase the risk of the disease developing in the digestive system, which includes the colon.

Just because you have a risk factor for colon cancer does not mean you will develop the disease. People who do not have any identifiable risk factors for colon cancer should begin regular colorectal screening at age 45, by getting a colonoscopy, an endoscopic examination used to screen for colon and rectal cancer. Those with risk factors for the disease should talk to their doctor about being screened at a younger age and/or being screened more frequently.

“Getting screened can save your life,” said Sarah Camacho, Pharmacy Technician for Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville and colon cancer awareness advocate. “Having lost two loved ones to colon cancer I have made it my goal to educate our community on this important topic. If one person gets screened from my advocacy then that’s a success.”

Camacho advocates each March in celebration of her aunt and uncle who lost their battle to colon cancer. She passes out education pamphlets and distributes blue ribbons to serve as a constant reminder.

Colon cancer often does not cause any symptoms, but it can be detected at an early stage through screening when it is most curable. For more information about colon cancer, talk with your doctor or visit the ACS website at


Valley Baptist Health System is an 866-bed faith-based regional health system located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. It is focused on helping people achieve health for life through compassionate service inspired by faith. Valley Baptist extends many of its services beyond its facilities and into local communities, offering free screenings for the community, support groups and numerous educational opportunities. For more information, visit