Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world.
We’ve all heard of the popular adage, prevention is better than cure. Here are simple lifestyle tips to minimise the risk of colon cancer:
• Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Diets that include lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains have been linked with a decreased risk of colon cancer.
• Eat less red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs, polony, sausages etc), which have been linked with an increased risk of colon cancer. It has been proposed that multiple mechanisms may be at play, including the type of iron found in red meat and increased exposure to cancer-causing agents called HCAs that are produced when red meat, in particular, is charred or cooked at a high temperature. South Africa has a very strong braai culture, which may lend itself to a higher incidence of colon cancer. If it’s too difficult to contemplate life without red meat, try thinking of red meat as a garnish to veggie meals such as stir-fries or salads, rather than a centre-of-the-plate affair.
• Get regular exercise. If you are not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colon cancer. Increasing your activity may help reduce your risk.
• Watch your weight. South Africa has the highest overweight and obesity rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with up to 70% of women and a third of men being classified as overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of getting and dying from colon cancer. Eating healthier and increasing your physical activity can help you control your weight.
• Don’t smoke. Long-term smokers are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colon cancer.
• Limit alcohol. Colon cancer has been linked to heavy drinking. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
Also remember, if you have a loved one who’s 50 or older, nag him or her to get a routine colon screening. While the general population is aware of screening for prostate, breast and cervical cancer, there seems to be limited knowledge on colon cancer screening. Colonoscopy not only detects cancer early – when it’s most treatable – but also enables the removal of precancerous polyps before they can turn into cancers. So be sure to encourage your 50-something friends, and assure them that while the prep for a routine colonoscopy may be mildly unpleasant, it need only be done once every five to 10 years in healthy people. Colonoscopy is done under sedation; it’s a short procedure that’s not at all painful. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I’ve seen many patients ignore symptoms of rectal bleeding, abdominal pains, altered bowel habits and weight loss. These symptoms require medical attention and investigation. Remember, cancer can be beaten through early detection and screening – contact us today!