March is not only National Nutrition Month, but also Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon and rectum) is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States. To catch it early, regular screening is needed, particularly for people older than 50.
Most colorectal cancers begin as benign adenomas, or polyps, that grow on the inner lining of the colon. These grow slowly and take anywhere from 10-20 years to become cancerous. This is why regular screenings are so important to identify and remove the polyps.
1) Eat more fruits, vegetables and fiber – There is clear evidence of genetic predisposition to colon cancer, but the variation in diagnosis could be linked to dietary habits. The data from many epidemiological studies seems to suggest that increased vegetable consumption is associated with lower risk. These are packed with antioxidants which protect the colon’s cell walls, but also contain high amounts of dietary fiber. Fiber decreases fecal transit time and increases stool bulk. It also dilutes other colonic constituents, which decreases contact between carcinogens and the colon’s cell walls (see graphic below).
Remember, this important tip: every meal should include a fruit and/or vegetable. If you can make this a habit – like brushing your teeth – you can be sure to get the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables in every day.
2) Eat more omega-3’s – Also include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids one to three times per week, such as salmon and halibut, which have been linked to reducing the risk of colorectal cancer.
3) Exercise – Exercising regularly and maintaining a proper weight can also cut your risk of developing colorectal cancer. Any kind of exercise, even small amounts on a regular basis, can help. The American Cancer Society recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days.
Join me and other members of the North Idaho Cancer Coalition in spreading the word about screening and prevention. For more information on colorectal cancer, check out the Panhandle Health District’s website: www.phd1.idaho.gov.
Another tasty and interactive event to teach you how to reduce your risk of colon cancer through healthy eating and cooking will be held on Wednesday, March 19. Sponsored by Kootenai Health, the Eat to Beat Colon Cancer presentation will include:
- Marcus Torgenson, M.D., Understanding the importance of early detection
- Registered dietitians who will provide tips on how to select the right foods for a healthy lifestyle, and
- A cooking demonstration by Kootenai Health’s executive chef, Robert McDaniel. Antioxidant-rich recipes will include Tuscan White Bean and kale Stew, Balsamic Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Steak Fries, and Grilled Sweet Potato Chips. To RSVP for this FREE event, please contact Cancer Services at (208) 666-3148.