Alert
Close

Watch the NASCAR race on Sunday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Join the Drive to End Hunger!

HIGHLIGHTS

Open

2014 NATIONAL EVENT

Health & Wellness
AARP Auto Buying Program

Download the ipad App

AARP-iPad-ePub-app

DRIVER SAFETY

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

KEEP BRAIN ACTIVE!

AARP Games - Play Now!

AARP BOOKS

Planning for Long-Term Care for Dummies

Get expert advice on planning for your own or a relative’s future care needs.

Webinars

Learn From the Experts

Sign up now for an upcoming webinar or find materials from a past session.

Learning centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.

 

Arthritis

Heart Disease

Diabetes

Most Popular

Viewed

share your thoughts

What does the health care law mean to you? Your story is important. We read and learn from every story and it helps us in our educational efforts. We may even use your comments (with permission) to brief legislators, inspire readers and more. Please share your story with us. Do

Colonoscopy: The Test That Saved Dr. Oz

Don't dismiss the importance of colon cancer screenings

En español | This past June I reached an important milestone: I turned 50. After all the festivities, one gift still awaited me: my first routine colonoscopy.

Dr. Oz

Dr. Mehmet Oz. — Photo by Art Streiber

I understood the importance of colon cancer screening for both men and women, but I had no other risk factors. I'm not overweight; I don't smoke; my diet consists mostly of high-fiber, low-fat foods; and I have no family history of colon cancer. I probably would have delayed the screening for months, except that I'd committed on my television show to undergoing the test. So I was shocked when my gastroenterologist found an adenomatous polyp, the kind that sometimes develops into cancer. More than 50,000 Americans will die of colon cancer this year. My doctor told me my good health habits undoubtedly lowered my risk, since he found only one polyp. But simply doing what I was told to do at 50 — get a colonoscopy — allowed me to have the polyp removed and possibly dodge a bullet. If I had waited, the consequences could have been severe.

Subscribe to the AARP Health Newsletter

But now what? Colon cancer screenings are certainly not a onetime deal. When should you get your second colon cancer screening, or your third? To my surprise, the guidelines are anything but straightforward. I found seven approved protocols for follow-up screenings.

My second colonoscopy was just three months later — but that's because I'd been cavalier about the bowel prep the first time, and the surgeon wanted to be sure he hadn't missed anything. The second time around, I maintained a clear-liquid diet for 24 hours before the procedure.

For most people with one or two small, precancerous polyps, including me, the next colonoscopy should be in five years (three years for bigger polyps or multiple polyps). For people with benign polyps or no polyps, a colonoscopy is recommended every 10 years.

But don't miss that first one — at age 45 for African Americans, and age 50 for most others. Evidence suggests the first colonoscopy has the biggest effect on reducing the incidence of colon cancer in patients with precancerous polyps.

Vitamin D May Lower Cancer Risk

Don't skimp on vitamin D: Low levels may be linked to colon cancer. One theory is that cells need vitamin D to undergo a process called apoptosis — or programmed cell death. If a cell goes awry (becomes precancerous), it normally will kill itself. If it doesn't, it can become cancerous. To boost your vitamin D levels, I recommend that everyone get 10 minutes of sun exposure a day, plus 1,000 international units of vitamin D3 as a supplement.

                                Originally published in the March/April 2011 issue

Visit the AARP home page every day for great deals and for tips on keeping healthy and sharp

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

VIDEO EXTRA

PROSTATE CANCER: The "Prostate Man" travels across America to raise awareness and save lives.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Woman trying on glasses in optometrists shop

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at JCPenney Optical.

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

AngiesList

Members can save 25% to 45% on their Angie's List membership.

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.