When it comes to colorectal cancer, there are certain foods to eat and avoid to help reduce your risk.
Vegan Grain Bowl

Pictured Recpe: Vegan Buddha Bowl

Overall U.S. rates of colorectal cancer-an umbrella term for colon and rectal cancers-have been on the decline since the 1980s. But cases in adults under 50 have spiked 22 percent since 2000 (yikes!). An American Cancer Society study found that people in their mid-20s today have double the risk of colon cancer and four times the odds of rectal cancer than those the same age did 40 years ago.

Typically, colorectal cancer targets people over 50, which is why you're not even screened until then, so health experts are puzzled by these numbers. The increase in our couch-potato lifestyles and weight problems may explain part of the rise, but researchers say this can't account for the entire problem. They speculate that factors like increased exposure to antibiotics and increase in processed meat consumption may also play a role.

Experts are weighing whether to recommend earlier screenings. And, if you notice signs of colorectal cancer, such as rectal bleeding, blood in your stool or prolonged abdominal discomfort, diarrhea or constipation, get checked out no matter how young (or old) you are.

3 Ways to Help Protect Yourself From Colon Cancer

For years, colorectal cancer was something that only older people had to worry about. Not anymore. The American Cancer Society recommends eating a healthy diet filled with fruits and vegetables, reducing red and processed meat consumption and only drinking alcohol in moderation to help reduce your risk. On top of those tips, here are 3 ways you can change your diet and lifestyle to help protect yourself at any age.

Eat Whole Grains

Whole grains are loaded with cancer-quashing nutrients like -selenium, copper, zinc, vitamin E and fiber. Three daily servings can reduce your odds of colorectal cancer by 17 percent, according to a new American Institute for Cancer Research report.

Eat Dairy

Ricotta Yogurt Parfait

Pictured Recipe: Ricotta & Yogurt Parfait

Getting two servings of dairy a day can cut your cancer risk by 18 percent, thanks largely to calcium, which binds toxic substances in the colon and whisks them out of the body. Plus, the casein and lactose in milk help your body use calcium. Bonus: Getting your protein from dairy (like plain yogurt) instead of potentially carcinogenic red meat could further slash your risk.

Move Your Body

Exercise can help burn off excess body fat and quell inflammation, two risk factors for colon cancer. It's so powerful that a British Journal of Cancer study found that the most active people were 24 percent less likely to develop the disease than those who were the least active. The researchers recommend aiming for five to six hours of activity (say, brisk walking) per week.

Watch: How to Make a Vegan Buddha Bowl