April is cancer prevention month.
Here’s what you need to know about colorectal cancer.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada
and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.
On average, over 500 Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer every day
and over 200 Canadians will die every day from cancer.
Colorectal cancer, cancer of the large intestine,
is the third most common cancer in men and women,
after breast/prostate and lung cancers.
Early screening and detection is the best defense against colorectal cancer because it is curable in 90% of the cases when detected and treated early compared to only 10% when not treated until the advanced stages of the disease. People over 50 should have an occult blood test done every 2 years to help identify polyps (growths on the surface of the large intestine) in the colon early before they become cancerous.
The risk of developing each type of cancer is affected by a unique set of factors. In the case of colorectal cancer you are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer when you are over 50, have a family history and if you smoke, drink heavily, or are overweight. You can lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer by being active (exercising at least five times per week) and by eating a healthy diet.
How can diet affect your risk of developing colorectal cancer?
Fibre probably lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.
You can lower your risk by choosing high fibre foods at each meal: whole grain cereals and toast at breakfast; vegetables or salad at lunch as well as dinner; trying beans and lentils at lunch (for example, baked beans, chili, lentil soup); and having one or two pieces of fruit each day.
We now have convincing evidence that red meats,
especially processed meats,
can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
There is convincing evidence
that we should avoid eating processed meats
(i.e. ham, bacon, sausage and hotdogs)
to reduce the chance of colorectal cancer.
Red meats include beef, pork, lamb and veal and are a valuable source of protein, iron, zinc and vitamin B 12.
Therefore to reduce the chance of colorectal cancer, it is recommended to not cut out red meat but to keep the intake of red meats to less than 24 oz of raw meat (or 18 oz of cooked meat) per week.
So how can you keep your intake of cooked red meat to the recommended weekly total of 18 oz?
- Have fish and poultry (chicken and turkey) more often. These do not increase the risk of colorectal cancer. So of the seven dinners in a week, make one fish, two chicken and four beef or pork. For example, have salmon or skinless chicken breasts/thighs on the BBQ instead of steak or pork chops.
- For lunch have a tuna salad, peanut butter, or egg salad sandwich instead of one made with processed meats.
- When you have red meat, choose a lean cut (e.g. beef tenderloin) and aim for a palm-sized serving (i.e. 4-6 oz). This is very different from the amounts served in many restaurants! When eating out, order the smallest steak available, usually a 6 oz portion, and have a salad, as well as cooked vegetables, with it.
- Extend your red meat by having stews, stir fries, chili or spaghetti sauce. This way the amount of meat in your portion is probably only 2 oz or less.
- Use meat alternatives such as beans or lentils for some meals. I find that this works better at lunch than at supper e.g. minestrone soup, black bean soup, and baked beans on a baked potato all make wonderfully satisfying lunches.
Food for thought…
Use your diet to reduce your chance of colorectal cancer:
Up your fibre. Reduce your red meat. Avoid processed meat.