How to prevent lung, breast, and colorectal cancer

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Cancer is a word that no one ever wants to hear, but with the right lifestyle choices preventing cancer is possible, or at least reduce the risk.

Dr. Diana Bitner, a nationally recognized menopause specialist from Spectrum Health, talks about the three most common cancers in women, and what can be done to prevent or lower risk of getting them.

Cancer is caused when cells start to grow out of control. The dramatic cell growth can be caused by exposure to a cancer causing agent like cigarette smoke, or damage in the control process like a gene mutation.

In women, breast cancer is most common, followed by lung and colorectal cancer. By detecting the cancer early, the cancer can be prevented and even save lives.

So what can be be done to lower the risk of these cancers?

  • Drinking less: Women who consume 10 or more alcoholic drinks per week have a higher risk for cancer of the colon and breast.
  • Stop smoking:Women who started smoking early and have smoked for a long time are at higher risk.
  • Breastfeeding: Women who breastfeed their children and are physically active have a lower risk of cancer.
  • Reducing radiation: Women who received radiation for Hodgkins Lymphoma as a child have an increased risk of breast cancer.
  • Exercise: At least 150 minutes of exercise a week can keep the body healthy and cancer free.
  • Watch weight: Try not to gain weight after the age of 40, the body has to work harder to process sugar.

To prevent cancer, women must know the risks, live a lifestyle that decreases their risk, and take checkups seriously. Take a look at the chart below to see other factors that can effect the risk of lung, colorectal,and breast cancer.

Types/Cancer Lung Colorectal Breast
3—Low Risk No smoking ever; Former, quit ≥20 yrs ago ≥50 yrs, normal colonoscopy;

≤3 srvgs red meat/week;

≤1 alcohol/day;

Vit D & calcium;

≥30 min exercise most days

No 1st degree relative pre- menopause breast cancer;

No prior biopsies;

≥30 min exercise/day;

≤1 alcohol/day; BMI ≤30;


2—Moderate Risk Quit ≤20 yrs, large city 10+ yrs;

Long secondhand smoke;

Factory wk. ≥10 yrs;

Radiation exposure

Hx of colon polyps;

Family hx of lg polyps;

IBS ≥10 yrs;

≥2 red meat wk;

≥1 alcohol/day; No screening colonoscopy

Family hx 1st degree post-menopause breast cancer;

≤30 min exercise/day;

1-2 alcohol/day;

BMI ≥30

1—High Risk Current smoker; Prior lung cancer;

High risk symptoms: changing cough, shortness breath, chest pain, cough up blood

Personal hx colon cancer;

1st degree relative colon cancer;

Family cancer syndromes;

Symptoms: blood in stool, change in BM, chronic abdominal pain

Family hx 1st degree relative pre-menopause breast cancer; FH male breast cancer;

BRCA 1 or 2+; Prior breast cancer;

Past high dose radiation;

Gale ≥20%

If you have any of these high risk factors, get screening early and talk to your doctor about special screening.

Dr. Bitner's office is located at 3800 Lake Michigan Drive Northwest, Suite A. To schedule an appointment with her, call (616) 267-8225.

All information was provided by Dr. Diana Bitner and her blog. Read more.

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