Help prevent colon cancer - in 2 simple steps

PEGGY J. NOONAN - | 3/4/2011, 6 a.m.

Colon cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in non-smoking Americans and the fourth most common cancer in the United States. But new research shows two simple steps can slash your risk.

Get your exercise. Adults who were consistently active had the lowest risk of dying from colon cancer, a new study reports. And it's never too late to start, says Kathleen Y. Wolin of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Even if you're a confirmed couch potato, get moving: "You get a lot of bang for your buck with physical activity" -- reduced risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes and more. It's free and it can be fun.

Watch your weight. Colon cancer risk is 19% higher in obese people than in those of normal weight, one study reports, and is 20% higher for every 4-inch increase in waist size. Another showed obesity in women raised colon cancer death risk by 30% to 40%. Researchers speculate obese people may be diagnosed later (cancer is more advanced), have more aggressive cancer or more "comorbidities" (other health problems).