March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month


Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Colon cancer occurs when malignant cells or polyps form in the colon or rectum. The ACS estimates at least 53,200 people will die from colon cancer in 2020 (American Cancer Society, 2020).


If you are 50 years of age or older, make sure you get screened for colon or rectal cancer. You can decrease your odds of getting colorectal cancer if you visit your doctor as soon as you notice any changes in your bowels such as seeing blood in your stool or experience new or prolonged pain in your abdomen. In addition, if you have a family history of colon or rectal cancer, you may need to be tested before turning 50 years of age. If you fall into this category, have a conversation with your primary care physician (PCP), to determine when you should start being screened for colon cancer. People over the age of 50 have the highest risk of colorectal cancer and African Americans have an even higher risk (American Cancer Society, 2020).


By raising awareness about colon cancer, we can decrease the number of people who die from this disease by taking proactive measures, which includes eating healthy, adding physical activity, managing your weight, quitting smoking, and lowering alcohol intake (American Cancer Society, 2020). Also, eating more leafy greens, vegetables, colorful variations of fruit, and reducing your consumption of red meat, pork, and lamb may also help to lower your colon cancer risk. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a plant-based diet can significantly decrease your chances of getting colorectal cancer (JAMA, 2015). A plant-based diet provides extra beneficial nutrients, which include folate, calcium, and fiber, which does not promote the growth of polyps (JAMA, 2015).


There are new at-home colon cancer tests that you may be able to use instead of enduring an invasive colonoscopy. However, only your doctor can tell you what test will work best for you. Remember, you are your best health advocate. Listen to your body, pay attention to changes in your stool, and don’t be afraid to discuss bowel changes with your PCP. You can learn more about colon cancer by reviewing the American Cancer Society’s latest news feature on their website.


Be well!


Disclosure: (I am a writer and editor for the National Institutes of Health. Information contained in this blog post are not associated with my role at NIH).


Sources:

American Cancer Society. Deaths from Colorectal Cancer. (January 8, 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/about/key-statistics.html


American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors. (February 21, 2018). Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer/causes-risks-prevention/risk-factors.html


American Cancer Society. Latest News on Colorectal Cancer. (March

4, 2020). Retrieved from: https://www.cancer.org/latest-news.html?tag=cancer-types%3Acolon-and-rectal-cancer


Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). Vegetarian Dietary Patterns and the Risk of Colorectal Cancers. (March 9, 2015). Retrieved from: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2174939




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