Preventive measures can go a long way in reducing your risk of colorectal cancers, which are the third leading cause of death from cancer in the United States.

While you can’t prevent certain risk factors such as age and family history, early screening and lifestyle measures that address diet, exercise, and weight can help reduce your risk of colon cancer.

One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of colon cancer is to eat more plant-based foods. Research has found that diets that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains can decrease your risk of colon cancers and other cancers.

Eating less red meat and processed meats, such as steak, ground beef, lunch meats, and hot dogs can significantly reduce your risk of colon cancer.

Reducing or avoiding alcohol consumption can lower your risk of colon cancer. The American Cancer Society’s new guidelines for reducing the risk of cancer recommend limiting alcohol consumption. For women, that means no more than one drink per day, and for men, no more than two drinks per day.

Smokers are at a 50 percent higher risk of developing colon cancer than those who never smoked. This means that if you smoke, one way to reduce your risk of colon cancer is to try to quit.

Managing your weight is another way to reduce your risk of colon cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, people with overweight or obesity are about 30 percent more likely to develop colon cancer than those without the conditions. In addition, a high body mass index (BMI) is linked to increased risks of colon and rectal cancers, particularly in men.

Regular exercise can help you manage your weight and reduce your risk of colon cancer. And those aren’t the only benefits. Exercise can also boost your spirits, improve your mental health, and even help you sleep better.

Due to the nature of colon cancer, screening tests are done before signs and symptoms may develop.

Colorectal cancer screening via traditional colonoscopy is typically recommended every 10 years starting at age 45. However, your doctor may recommend testing sooner — and more often — if you’re at higher risk.

Discuss the following screening options with your doctor to determine which is the best method for you.

Colonoscopy

A colonoscopy uses a camera and light called a colonoscope to gain images of the colon and rectum. You can read this article for more detailed information on the procedure.

Virtual/CT colonoscopy

This screening method uses computed tomography (CT) scans after the colon is slightly inflated with air to provide better images. Read more about this method here.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy

A flexible sigmoidoscopy uses a light and camera lens (in this case, a sigmoidoscope) to view the colon. Read this article for more information on the procedure.

Fecal occult blood test (FOBT)

This screening method uses a light and camera lens (in this case, a sigmoidoscope) to examine the colon.

DNA stool test

This test analyzes a stool sample for possible genetic changes that may point to colorectal cancer. This article provides additional information about this test.