Here’s some good news : A February report from the National Cancer Institute and three other organizations says the tide may be turning for this type of cancer, with “significant” decreases seen in incidences and death between 1975 and 2006.
The reasons: more people are getting screened, so colorectal cancer or its warning signs are detected and treated earlier with more success. Also, people can make healthier living choices to reduce their risk (see below).
“We know everything we need to know to stop this disease,” says David S. Alberts, MD, director of the Arizona Cancer Center, University of Arizona in Tucson.
Roughly 20 percent of colorectal cancer patients have a family history of the disease. But daily habits like diet, physical activity, weight and smoking play an even bigger role.
45 Percent of Colon Cancer is Preventable
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death and the third most common type of cancer diagnosed in the U.S. An estimated 147,000 Americans were diagnosed with the disease in 2009 and approximately 50,000 died from it.
Yet 45% – nearly half – of colon cancer is preventable, according to a 2009 report from AICR. And the new NCI report says if Americans practice healthier habits — avoiding “physical inactivity, being overweight and obese and a diet high in red and processed meats” — colorectal cancer rates could decrease even more.
What can you do to prevent colorectal cancer? AICR’s expert report — based on convincing evidence from many scientific studies — advises:
- Limiting red meat to 18 oz. (cooked weight) or less per week
- Avoiding processed meats
- Limiting alcohol to 2 alcoholic beverages for men and 1 for women daily, if you drink at all
- Being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, and
- Staying at a healthy weight and avoiding abdominal fat.
Awareness of possible symptoms like ongoing pain or rectal bleeding is also important. Although many illnesses or conditions can upset your digestion — like stress or the flu — check with your doctor if symptoms last or are severe. It is also possible to have colon cancer and not have any symptoms, making regular screenings very important.
If cancer is detected, your physician will conduct further tests to decide what treatment is best for you. Luckily, the quality of treatments has improved, increasing survival, according to the report.
Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer:
- Personal history of cancer
- Family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps (growths). Roughly 20 percent of colorectal cancer cases occur in people who have a family history of the disease.
- Personal history of polyps or inflammatory bowel disease
- Being over 50 years of age
- Cigarette smoking
- Diet very low in fiber
- Diet high in red meat and processed meat
- Lack of physical activity
- Substantial consumption of alcohol (more than 2 drinks per day)
- Obesity, particularly excess fat around the midsection
Possible Warning Signs for Colorectal Cancer:
- A prolonged change in bowel habits such as diarrhea, constipation or narrowing of stools
- A feeling that the bowel doesn’t empty completely
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool (either bright red or very dark in color)
- Cramping or steady abdominal pain
- Decreased appetite and/or abnormal weight loss
- Abnormal weakness and fatigue
Source : AICR