Take steps to prevent colorectal cancer
On Aug. 28, 2020, beloved actor Chadwick Boseman died at age 43 of colorectal cancer.
A native of Anderson, South Carolina, Boseman had become a household name for his role as King T’Challa in Marvel’s “Black Panther,” a comic book film praised for its celebration of Black culture and promotion of diverse representation within the superhero genre. “Black Panther” broke box office records and earned a gross of $1.3 billion by the end of its theatrical run.
Unknown to fans and even his colleagues, Boseman had been fighting a different kind of battle off-screen for four years with colorectal cancer. Despite multiple surgeries and chemotherapy, he sadly lost that battle after the cancer progressed from stage 3 in 2016 to stage 4 in 2020.
Chadwick Boseman’s death from colorectal cancer was a devastating reminder that people must do their part to assess their risk, practice prevention, and get recommended screenings to detect cancer early.
What is colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of the large intestine and rectum, which are responsible for the absorption of water and salt from remaining food contents passing through your digestive tract, and the storage of waste until elimination when you have a bowel movement.
According to the American Cancer Society, an anticipated 52,580 people will die of colorectal cancer in 2022. Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in the United States.
Evaluating risk and prioritizing prevention
Here are some risk factors associated with colorectal cancer and some recommendations for ways you can reduce your risk of developing the disease.
Lack of exercise—Studies show that a sedentary lifestyle can increase your chances of developing colorectal cancer. It is recommended that adults set a goal of 150—300 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75—150 minutes of intense exercise weekly. In addition to reducing your risk for developing cancer, regular exercise helps prevent other significant diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, and has mental health benefits as well.
Diet—Eating a diet rich in red meats (beef, pork, and lamb) and processed meats (hot dogs, packaged deli meats, beef jerky) increases colorectal cancer risk. Reducing consumption of red meats and processed meats can help to lower your risk for colorectal cancer and improve digestion.
Obesity—Carrying excess weight is linked with an increased likelihood for developing certain cancers, including colorectal cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, people who are obese are about 30% more likely to develop colorectal cancer than people within a normal weight range. While obesity raises the risk for both men and women, the connection appears stronger in men.
Make dietary changes to include more fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, lean meats, like chicken and fish, and plant-based proteins such as beans, peas, and legumes. Along with added activity, this can eliminate the pounds, mitigating your cancer risk, while also improving your overall health and mood.
Tobacco and Alcohol Use—Tobacco and alcohol use both increase your risk for multiple cancer types, including colorectal cancer. It is recommended to stop tobacco use, and limit alcohol use to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
History of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer—People who have had polyps (tissue growths in the colon) or have been diagnosed and treated for colorectal cancer in the past are at a higher risk for developing disease and should get regular screenings as recommended by their health care provider.
Family history—Genetics play a strong role in what diseases we will encounter throughout our lives, and colorectal cancer is no exception. If your parents, grandparents, or siblings have ever been treated for colorectal cancer, your chances of developing it are much higher than those with no family history. Work to mitigate the risk factors mentioned above and create a plan with your health care provider for regular screenings to monitor your status and catch cancer early should it develop.
Achieving better outcomes
For the average person with no major risk factors or symptoms, it is recommended you begin regular screenings for colorectal cancer at age 45. This can be done with stool-based tests that look for indicators in a provided stool specimen, or through a visual exam using diagnostic imaging or a colonoscopy.
If you would like to learn more about your risk for colorectal cancer and are interested in screening, contact HopeHealth today to schedule your appointment.