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Colorectal Cancer Prevention: 5 Tips for Reducing Your Risk

hand holding a blue ribbon symbolizing cancer

Colorectal cancer is the cancer of the colon (large intestine) and the rectum (the passageway connecting the colon to the anus). Colorectal cancer is Singapore’s top killer, affecting more than 1,865 cases each year.

Colorectal cancer usually starts as a non-cancerous polyp (a growth of tissue) on the inner lining of the colon or rectum which may develop into cancer over time.

This is why screening using colonoscopy is important as the polyp can be detected and removed before it becomes cancerous. Screening for colorectal cancer only takes 30 minutes and can save your life.

Here are 6 ways to help protect your colorectal health.

Get A Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy looks for signs of colorectal cancer before signs and symptoms develop, and can find colon or rectal cancer earlier when treatments are more likely to be successful.

According to MOH, the age-standardised incidences of colon and rectal cancer in Singapore are among the highest in the world. In fact, male Chinese Singaporeans have the highest age-standardised incidence of colorectal cancer in the world!

Colorectal cancer is the most common cancer in Singapore. Male Chinese Singaporeans are, particularly at risk. Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for colorectal cancer. Early diagnosis improves the likelihood of a cure.

When should you start screening for Colorectal Cancer?

In Singapore, MOH guidelines for colorectal cancer start at 50 years old, regardless of your gender. If you’re 50 years and above and have NOT gotten a colonoscopy, please contact a dedicated colonoscopy centre to get your screening done.

Colonoscopies are Medisave Claimable, and if you have an Integrated Shield Plan, you may be covered for colonoscopy. Please contact our friendly staff to learn more about payment options.

Get Regular Exercise

It’s hard to beat regular exercise. It lowers the risk of many serious diseases, including colon cancer, and provides a good mental boost. Any amount of physical activity is better than none, but it’s good to try for around 30 minutes or more of moderate activity each day. Choose things you enjoy, like brisk walking, cycling, dancing or gardening. If you are not physically active, you may have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer.

Make Sure You Get Enough Calcium and Vitamin D

A recent study published online on June 14, 2018, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute
by an international group of researchers including the American Cancer Society finds that higher levels of vitamin D in the blood are associated with a lower risk of getting colorectal cancer.

Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy, fortified plant-based milk, nuts, beans and greens.

Good sources of vitamin D include eggs, fatty fish (like tuna) and fortified dairy products. A standard multivitamin can help fill gaps but should not take the place of real food or a healthy diet.

Avoid Smoking

Smokers are at a 50% higher risk of developing colon cancer than non-smokers. This means that by quitting smoking, you’re reducing your risk greatly.

People who have been smoking for a long time are more likely than people who don’t smoke to develop and die from colorectal or rectal cancer.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

A 2021 study has linked alcohol use with a higher risk of colorectal cancer. It’s best to not drink alcohol but if you do, guidelines recommend no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.

I Have No Symptoms, Why Should I Get A Colonoscopy?

Unfortunately, colorectal cancer often has little to no symptoms in the early stages. Early screening by colonoscopy can help detect and remove polyps which are small clump of cells that forms on the lining of the colon. Most colon polyps are harmless, but over time, some colon polyps can develop into colon cancer, which may be fatal when found in its later stages. Anyone can develop colon polyps which is why it’s highly recommended that everyone above the age of 50 gets screened for colon cancer. Contact us to learn more about how you can get a colonoscopy today!

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