Time to get moving: Ontarians are at increased risk for colorectal cancer with only half of the population staying moderately active

Man measuring his large belly

Ontarians are at increased risk for colorectal cancer with only half of the population staying moderately active. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and Regional Cancer Care Northwest is challenging Ontarians to make the first move and reduce their risk of developing the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the province.

This call to action coincides with the release of Cancer Care Ontario‘s (CCO) newest report that shows that a substantial number of colorectal cancers in Ontario result from lack of exercise, poor diet and being overweight or obese. In 2013, only 53 per cent of Ontario adults aged 18 and older said they were at least moderately active during their leisure time.

“This new report highlights that making unhealthy lifestyle choices can significantly increase a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer in particular,” says Cathy Paroschy-Harris, Director of Prevention and Screening Services. “By exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight and getting screened appropriately, you can reduce your risk. Over time, these small changes can have a dramatic impact.”

The report, Cancer Risk Factors in Ontario: Healthy Weights, Healthy Eating and Active Living, also shows that Ontarians aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables to reduce their risk of cancer, with only 35 per cent of people aged 18 and older reporting they consumed five or more servings per day in 2013. Furthermore, 25 per cent of male and 14 per cent of female Canadian adults consumed more red and processed meat than the cancer prevention recommendation of less than 500 grams per week. A single serving size is approximately 75 grams and is roughly equivalent to a deck of cards. In addition, the number of overweight or obese Ontarians continues to rise. In 2013, 37 per cent of Ontarians were overweight and 25 per cent were obese.

“Not getting enough physical activity, eating red or processed meats in excess of 500 grams per week and carrying extra body weight are all factors that can increase your colorectal cancer risk,” says Dr. Catherine Dubé, Clinical Lead, ColonCancerCheck at CCO. “By embracing healthy habits, Ontarians can take prevention into their own hands and help reduce the burden of colorectal cancer across the province.”

The following recommendations can help you make the first move and reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer:

Exercise regularly

Walking briskly for 30 minutes each day is enough to significantly reduce your risk. As your fitness improves, aim for 60 minutes or more of moderate or 30 minutes or more of vigorous physical activity each day. If possible, avoid sedentary activities such as watching television.

Eat a healthy diet

You can adopt a healthy diet by incorporating at least five servings (at least 400 grams or 14 ounces) of assorted non-starchy vegetables and fruit into your diet each day. Limit your consumption of red and processed meat and avoid excess salt whenever possible.

Maintain a healthy weight

Excess body weight increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer. To avoid significant weight gain, consume high calorie foods sparingly, avoid sugary drinks and limit the amount of fast food in your diet.

Get screened appropriately

Screening plays an integral role in early detection of colorectal cancer. In Ontario, the ColonCancerCheck program recommends men and women between the ages of 50 and 74 with no symptoms and without a family history of colorectal cancer get screened every two years using the fecal occult blood test (FOBT). They are considered to be at average risk for developing colorectal cancer. The FOBT is a simple test done at home that detects invisible amounts of blood in the stool, which could be caused by colorectal cancer.

People who have a first-degree relative (i.e., parent, sibling or child) with a history of colorectal cancer are at increased risk for the disease. For these people, colonoscopy is recommended beginning at age 50, or 10 years earlier than the age at which their relative was diagnosed, whichever occurs first.

For more information on colorectal cancer screening, visit: www.coloncancercheck.ca . Find out your risk of developing colorectal cancer at www.mycanceriq.ca