Newswise — (New York, February 21, 2014) – Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon or rectum affecting both men and women, is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Although highly treatable and preventable, about 140,000 Americans are still diagnosed and more than 50,000 people die a year. Here, experts from the Mount Sinai Health System offer eight tips to help ward off the disease.

“Before someone gets colon cancer, there is a precancerous polyp that can be removed”, says Steven Itzkowitz, MD, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Gastroenterology Fellowship Program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “Because polyps do not usually cause symptoms, it is important to go for screening even if you feel perfectly well”.

Colorectal cancer does not always manifest in symptoms, which may include blood in or on the stool, constant stomach pains, and unexplainable weight loss. “Colon cancer is common in both men and women. We are fortunate to have such good tools to help detect it. We recommend a colonoscopy as the best way to screen for colon cancer”, says Michelle Kim, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Gastroenterology and Associate Director of Endoscopy at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Eight Ways to Help Prevent Colorectal CancerIn addition to screening, diet and lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk for colorectal cancer. Experts offer eight ways to help lower your chances:

1. Quit smoking. “While tobacco use has a well-known association with chronic lung disease and cancer, most people don't realize there is now strong evidence linking it to colon cancer development. Just one more reason to try to quit if you haven't already,” says Brett B. Bernstein, MD, Director of Endoscopy, Division of Digestive Diseases in the Department of Medicine at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. Not only can smoking predispose a person to colon cancer, but it can also cause many others. Consider joining a smoking cessation group or ask your doctor for assistance. 2. Keep the weight down. Maintaining a healthy weight is critical. Your ideal Body Mass Index (BMI) should range between 18-25. Incorporate simple lifestyle changes into your day: eat breakfast every morning, bring lunch to work, and order an appetizer instead of an entrée when eating out. 3. Get moving. You can lower your risk by increasing your activity level. Try to complete 150 to 300 minutes of physical activity a week, which is easily achieved in 20-30 minute increments daily. At work, take the stairs or consider using a stand-up computer desk. At home, try doing sit-ups during television commercial breaks.4. Increase dietary fiber. Having more fruits, vegetables and whole grains in your diet can help move waste material out of the body more efficiently. Swap out white rice, boxed mashed potatoes and pasta for brown rice, quinoa, faro or wheat berries. Remember to have a minimum of 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day. “If the choices are minimal, like during the winter, frozen fruits and vegetables are the next best option. They retain most of their nutrition. They can simply be reheated or put into a smoothie,” says Laura Manning, Registered Dietician, Division of Gastroenterology at The Mount Sinai Hospital.5. Lower red meat intake. Eat fewer than 18 ounces of red meat per week. Avoid deli, cured, and processed meats which contain nitrates that may be equally harmful. Instead of steak and potatoes, try salmon and kale.6. Limit alcohol consumption. Experts advise only two alcoholic beverages for men and one for women on a daily basis. Try to lower your intake by adding more water to drinks or having a large glass of water between them.7. Consume recommended levels of Calcium and Vitamin D. Calcium and vitamin D are beneficial for preventing colon cancer. It is best to get vitamins through food, so think about increasing your intake of low fat dairy products (yogurt, low fat cheese and milk) and getting about fifteen minutes of sunshine a day. 8. Get screened. “Despite all preventative measures, we still see patients with colorectal cancer,” says Alex Ky, MD, Professor of Surgery, Division of Colo-rectal Surgery at The Mount Sinai Hospital. “The best and most preventative measure is to get screened.” Most individuals should begin screening for colon cancer at age 50. If you are at increased risk (have a family history of colon cancer) you should start screening earlier, around age 40. Have you had your colonoscopy yet?

About the Mount Sinai Health System
The Mount Sinai Health System is an integrated health system committed to providing distinguished care, conducting transformative research, and advancing biomedical education. Structured around seven member hospital campuses and a single medical school, the Health System has an extensive ambulatory network and a range of inpatient and outpatient services—from community-based facilities to tertiary and quaternary care.

The System includes approximately 6,600 primary and specialty care physicians, 12-minority-owned free-standing ambulatory surgery centers, over 45 ambulatory practices throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Westchester, and Long Island, as well as 31 affiliated community health centers. Physicians are affiliated with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, which is ranked among the top 20 medical schools both in National Institutes of Health funding and by U.S. News & World Report.For more information, visit, or find Mount Sinai on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.# # #