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Healthy diet, exercise can lower colon cancer risk

Published:Monday | March 5, 2018 | 12:00 AM



March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month and the Jamaica Cancer Society is appealing to Jamaicans to get informed, know their risk profile to this disease and get screened. Early detection of colon cancer will significantly improve health outcomes for patients and ultimately save lives.

Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer related deaths among both Jamaican males and females.

A healthy diet and exercise can play a significant role in lowering one’s risk for colon cancer.  Increased intake of fresh fruits, vegetables, lots of water accompanied by exercise is recommended as part of one’s daily regiment to reduce vulnerability to chronic diseases such as colon cancer.

Reduced consumption of red meats, meals high in fat, processed foods and limit alcohol intake to one to two glasses of wine per day as well as eliminating smoking, will all serve to reduce the risk to not only colon cancer but all cancers in general.


Colon cancer screening begins at age 50 years. However, if an individual has a strong family history of the disease, that is, a first degree relative (parents or siblings) was diagnosed with colon cancer, then it is recommended that screening starts 10 years earlier than the age of diagnosis of the affected family member.

If an individual gets a clean colonoscopy report and do not have a family history of the disease, the Gastroenterologist may recommend screening in ten years’ time, however, individuals with a high risk profile may be recommended to repeat the test earlier.


There are several tests available to screen for colon cancer. These include faecal occult blood testing (FOBT), flexible sigmoidoscopy (F/S), barium enema and colonoscopy.

Colonoscopy remains the "gold standard" in the diagnosis of colonic diseases. It has the best sensitivity for both small and large polyps. Colonoscopy has also been shown to decrease the incidence of colon cancer in patients with adenomatous polyps after removal.

It has the added advantage of permitting biopsy of suspicious lesions and the immediate removal of polyps.


Once cancer begins in the colon, an individual may experience some or all of the following:

* Noticeable change in bowel habits, including bouts of diarrhoea or constipation, or a change in the consistency of the stool.

* Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool.

* Abdominal discomfort in the form of cramps, gas or pain.

* Constant feeling that the bowel is not emptied completely.

* Weakness or fatigue.

* Unexplained weight loss.

These are warning signs that should never be ignored. Consult your doctor immediately for evaluation. It is important to understand that screening remains our best defence in fighting colon cancer and all other cancers.