March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer, cancer of the colon and/or rectum, is the third most common cancer and the second highest cause of cancer death in the U.S. Colorectal cancer has been part of public discourse more in the past few years- whether you watched Katie Couric get her colonoscopy on national television or you know someone who was diagnosed- it is an important topic to discuss and be informed about.
Colorectal cancer affects all racial and ethnic groups and is most commonly found in people age 50 or older. This cancer affects the colon, or large intestine/large bowel, and the rectum, the passageway that connects the anus and the colon. Most colon cancer start as colorectal precancerous polyps, or abnormal growths. If not treated early, these polyps become cancerous and the cancer can metastasize to other parts of the body- usually the liver and lungs. Some symptoms include bloody stool, reoccurring stomach pains, aches or cramps, and losing weight without any cause.
– 1 in 20 people get colorectal cancer
– 140,000 people are diagnosed each year
– 90% of these cases are in people 50 years of age or older
– 72% of cases develop in the colon and 28% are in the rectum
– Family history of colorectal cancer increases the risk 2-3 times
– 50,000 people die from colorectal cancer each year
Reduce Your Risk:
– Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
– Be physically active
– Eat healthy
– Don’t drink too much alcohol
– Maintain a healthy weight
– Get screened
Eating to Prevent Colorectal Cancer
– Limit your intake of high fat foods especially from animal sources. High fat consumption leads to a high amount of bile acids which can promote tumor growth when in the colon.
– Increase antioxidants. Antioxidants protect against dangerous free radicals. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, and certain teas have high levels of antioxidants.
– Increase your dietary fiber. Fiber improves health by moving wastes through the digestive tract quicker. This gives toxic waste less time to come into contact with your intestines. Whole grains, prunes, berries, beans, legumes, fresh fruits and vegetables are all good sources of fiber.
Why Get Screened?
Screening detects precancerous polyps, which can then be removed before they turn cancerous. Colorectal cancer is treatable and curable in early stages, but gets significantly harder to treat as it gets into later stages. If you are 50 years or older, you should be screened regularly. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, talk to your doctor about screening earlier. Six in 10 colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented if everyone 50 or older were screened regularly. So get your colonoscopy and encourage your loved ones to do so as well.