Registered Dietitian Sarah Remmer, is one of four dieticians visiting Albertan cities to raise awareness about colorectal cancer. With a few lifestyle changes, Remmer says people can significantly reduce their risk of this disease.
Calgary Senior News: What is the main message that you had for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month?
Sarah Remmer: It's more important than ever to make smarter decisions at the grocery store. When shopping in the produce section, it's important to choose a rainbow of colours such as oranges, reds, greens and yellows to maximize nutrient content, as well as fibre, which we know can be protective against colorectal cancer. Make sure not to miss the milk and alternatives! Milk contains up to 16 essential nutrients, two in particular--calcium and vitamin D--which may play an important role in decreasing the risk of colorectal cancer. When you're choosing breads, cereals and other grains and starches, it's important to choose high fibre, whole grain options, such as barley, oats, and quinoa. And speaking of fibre, don't forget to pick up some nutrient and fibre-packed (and cost-effective) beans and lentils, which are also excellent sources of protein.
CSN: Is there a difference between the rates of potential colon cancer for men vs. women over 50
SR: There are approximately 25,100 new cases of colorectal diagnosed each year in Canada and about 56% of those are men and about 44% of those are women. Both men and women should strive to eat better, choosing a rainbow of vegetables and fruits and meeting their recommended milk and alternative servings (3 servings per day for those over 50). We know that most Canadian's just aren't getting enough right now.
CSN: Colon cancer apparently is the second deadliest cancer to afflict Canadians. Why?
SR: This is unfortunately due to a huge gap in awareness. According to a recent survey commissioned by Dairy Farmers of Canada in collaboration with the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada, Canadians are much more aware of both breast and lung cancers than colon cancer. The same survey showed that many Canadians believe that colorectal cancer causes symptoms--this is actually not the case at all and this is why it's so important that Canadians over 50 get screened regularly. In fact, 90% of colon cancer cases can be cured in the beginning stages if caught early enough.
CSN: Do you have personal experience with colorectal cancer? Why is this issue important to you?
SR: My father-in-law was diagnosed with colorectal cancer last year and required surgery right away. Luckily, because he made regular cancer screening a priority, they were able to catch it in its early stages and he is now cancer-free. Because he knows that he's at an increased risk, he's made some positive changes to his lifestyle by increasing his activity levels, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough vegetables and fruits, and meeting his recommended milk servings every day. Not only has my father-in-law changed his lifestyle for the better, but my husband has followed suit, as he is now aware that he too is at an increased risk.
CSN: Apple founder Steve Jobs died of colon cancer because apparently he sought treatment too late. How common is this unfortunate attitude?
SR: Unfortunately, much too common. Each year, 4,900 men and 4,200 women die from the disease--that's about a 36% death rate in Canada. We need to be doing a better job at making simple, but life-saving positive lifestyle changes and screening regularly in order to prevent colon cancer or catch it in its early and curable stages.
Sarah Remmer is a Registered Dietitian, freelance writer and owner of Sarah Remmer Nutrition Consulting, a Calgary-based nutrition consulting and communications company.