Colon Cancer in Perimenopause and Menopause


When I say, “Mammogram,” most women in menopause have had one. But when I say “Colonoscopy” many women in perimenopause or menopause have not. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and I’m hoping the answer to the colonoscopy question will change. Women in perimenopause and menopause are more likely to die of colon cancer than breast cancer. More women die from it that from breast cancer and HIV combined.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide and the second leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, second only to lung cancer. But it doesn’t have to be that way – one person dying every 9.3 minutes.

Colorectal cancer is largely preventable if it is caught early. A study in the February 23, 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine (Zauber AG and others, NEJM 2012;366:687-96) showed that people who have a colonoscopy are 53% less likely to die from colon cancer over the next 15+ years than people who just have a test for hidden blood in stool. So getting both an annual screening for hidden blood in your stool and a routine colonoscopy after age 50 and repeat it as often as recommended by your doctor could save your life. Over 90% of people diagnosed with colon cancer are over 50. Research has shown that 1 in 4 people over age 50 have polyps, which are cancer precursors. The colonoscopy not only finds polyps; it removes them. And studies also show that the colonoscopy is not as uncomfortable as people think they will be. I had one; it was not bad at all. If you are 50+ and haven’t had one, you can do better than that. Get a colonoscopy this year.

Here are 9 additional tips to help you prevent colon cancer.

1. Eat a balanced diet.

Fruits and vegetables lower your risk of colon cancer as does a high fiber diet. Animal fats like red meat increase your risk of colon cancer. A new study shows whole grains such as barley, buckwheat, quinoa and whole wheat lower your risk.

2. Watch your weight.

Although obese men are at more risk for colon cancer obese women, being obese increases the colon cancer risk for everyone. The shape of your body also matteres; a person with a thicker waist (apple shape) has a higher rate of colon cancer risk more than a person with extra fat in her thighs or hips (pear shaped).

3. Stay active.

Exercising reduces colon cancer risk by as much as 40 percent. Of course, exercise also reduces your risk of other risk factors for colon cancer, like obesity and diabetes.

4. Know your genetic risk.

Some people have an increased risk of colon cancer due to genetic mutations. So do people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent. Talk with your doctor about genetic counseling.

5. Find out your family medical history.

I’ve talked about this in my FREE Health Accelerator video series. Knowing your family medical history can save your life. A family history of stomach, liver, and bone cancer may also put you at increased risk for colon cancer.

6. Discuss your personal medical history.

Time with the doctor is often limited, but be sure to discuss your personal medical history. Believe me, your doctor wants and needs to know your medical history, so tell him or her. Make sure they know if you have a history of polyps, certain cancers, or chronic inflammation of the bowel, all of which increase your colon cancer risk.

7. Don’t smoke.

You know smoking increases your risk of lung cancer. It’s also a risk factor for colon cancer. Tobacco smoke that’s inhaled or swallowed carries carcinogens to the colon. Studies suggest that tobacco increase polyp size. One more reason not to smoke.

8. Reduce radiation exposure.

The world we live in is full of low amounts of radiation coming from the soil, radon, electronics and airplane travel. Medical x-rays like dental, mammograms and chest x-rays have fairly low radiation but others like a barium enema or a CT scan are higher. Although radiation from airport scanners is supposed to be low, I travel a lot and insist on getting pat downs instead of going through the scanners. Time will tell if this is necessary or not. But for now, I’m skipping the airport scanners.

9. See your doctor if you have thin stools, cramping, unexplained weight loss, or bloody stools.

In honor of Colon Cancer Awareness Month, I’d like to offer all of you a free musical colon cancer prevention StayWellCard® to send to your friend or family member 50 or over. It’s a nice way to say, “Get a light at the end of your tunnel.” Entering your name and email will give you instant access. Make a difference; send a reminder.


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