Colon Calling: March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Breast Cancer awareness is one of the leading charitable causes in Canada and the Movember phenomenon has done wonders for both awareness and research of prostate cancer. What many may not know, though, is that colon cancer is currently the second deadliest form of the disease – which is exactly why Colon Cancer Awareness Month (March) and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer are encouraging Canadians, young and old, to start thinking about how to keep their colons healthy.

*An estimated 23,300 Canadians were diagnosed with colon cancer in 2012 and 9,200 will die of the disease. Studies show that screening can reduce deaths from colorectal cancer by about 20%.

It’s important for Canadians to have a ‘colonversation’ and find out how they can get checked. 

A little rewind to grade 9 biology: Your colon is otherwise known as your large intestine, so keeping it healthy is largely dependent on your diet. While the reality is that everyone over the age of 50 should be getting screened (one of the risk factors is aging), young professionals should be getting into the habit of developing a lifestyle that reduces the risk of getting the disease as early as possible. It’s not always easy to incorporate health-conscious meals into our hectic professional and social schedules, but there are definitely a few tips to consider in terms of your diet:

1. Cut down on processed meats, red meats and meats cooked at high temperatures. We’re not saying avoid them completely, but everything in moderation.

2. Eat cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower and bok choy). The dietary fiber is known to decrease the risk of colon cancer and these vegetables may also contain cancer-fighting phytonutrients. 

3. Good vs. Bad Bacteria. Bad bacteria in our bodies increase the risk of colon cancer, so it’s important to consume as many probiotics as possible, found in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut (traditionally made).

4. Maintain healthy Vitamin D levels. This can be as easy as taking every opportunity to get some extra sun during the day to taking a pill. Better yet, consume lots of seafood, fortified tofu and soy, dairy, eggs and mushrooms.  

Finally, exercising regularly is a great way to keep your colon healthy, not to mention everything else in top shape as well. Replace steak with chicken, add lots of dark greens to one meal a day, consider yogurt in the morning, hit the gym and get some sun – it’s that easy.