A new study finds that many doctors might not always inform their patients about one important step they can take to reduce their risk of colon cancer: becoming more physically active. Many experts now consider colon cancer a largely preventable disease, and exercise is a critical piece of that "preventable" label.
When researchers analyzed survey data from 1,932 adults who answered questions about colon cancer risks, only 15 percent listed physical activity as a means of reducing their risk. The word about the value of exercise is obviously not making the rounds. A sedentary lifestyle accounts for as many as 14 percent of all colon cancer cases in the United States. Highly active individuals have a 30 percent to 40 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer, according to these researchers, who wrote up their results in the August issue of the journal Patient Education and Counseling.
Study co-author Elliot Coups says that there are several factors contributing to the information gap. “Patients may not be learning this information from their health care providers and information regarding colon cancer prevention is not as well publicized as it could be.”
Doctors might find it easier to promote the general benefits of exercise, without specifically mentioning colon cancer, even to a patient who has a family history of Colon Cancer said Coups, who works at the Division of Population Science at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Cheltenham, Pa.
Doctors might also need to offer more information about what it means to be physically active, as patients could imagine it involves dramatic lifestyle alterations, he said. This isn't always the case. Sedentary people should first set achievable goals, such as walking on a daily basis. One expert says, "More benefits could accrue from higher levels and more intense exercise, such as jogging, running or tennis. While to some extent, more may be better, it is still important to note that a little exercise is much better than nothing.”
While many people are vaguely aware that exercise is good, doctors need to make more people aware that exercise specifically prevents a large proportion of our population from getting this very nasty form of cancer.