DR. AVITAL Porter and patient.
(photo credit: BINYAMIN ADAM)
March has been named colorectal cancer awareness month by the Israel Cancer Association (ICA) and the Health Ministry. The second- most-common cause of death among both men and women, colorectal cancer can be prevented entirely by periodically undergoing a colonoscopy.
In 2012, 1,355 Israelis died of the disease – 611 Jewish men, 602 Jewish women, 50 Arab men, and 43 Arab women.
Dr. Lital Keinan Boker, deputy head of the ministry’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention said to mark the beginning of the month that 3,139 new patients were diagnosed in 2012 – among them 1,453 Jewish men, 1,274 Jewish women, 131 Arab men and 126 Arab women. Although many in the population think that men are much more likely to contract colorectal cancer, the prevalence is almost equal in the two genders.
Cancer of the colon and rectum follows prostate cancer as the biggest killer of Jewish men and after breast cancer in Jewish and Arab women, while it follows lung and prostate cancer in Arab men. The rate rises significantly after the age of 60. The rate of new cases declined 22 percent in Jewish men and 24% in Jewish women in 2012 compared to the rates in 1990. The prevalence stabilized and even declined among Arabs in 2010. There has not been an increase in the disease among people under 50 for many years.
Survival rates have risen 20% in Jewish men (to 67%) and in Jewish women (to 66%) and by 15% among Arab men and 24% in Arab women during this period.
Thanks to early screening (of fecal blood) and undergoing invasive colonoscopies, 34% of new patients in 2012 were diagnosed at an early stage, compared to only 20% at the beginning of the decade.
According to international comparisons among 20 countries with the highest colorectal cancer rate in the world, Israeli men are in 14th place and 19th in deaths from the tumor. Israeli women are in eighth place in occurrence among the 20, and 10th in death rates.
The ICA’s national program to fight colorectal cancer – which began in 2004 and is carried out today by the ministry and the four public health funds, as well as its information campaigns – are credited with boosting early detection and saving lives.
People over the age of 50 should undergo screening for the tumor. Too many people, especially men, are unaware of the fact that colorectal cancer can be prevented by colonoscopy, in which non-malignant polyps are removed from the colon.
The main reasons that people gave for not undergoing screening for occult blood in the feces (which is much less accurate than a colonoscopy) were laziness, lack of time, “not believing in it,” “not doing tests at all” and “not being asked,” while others said they were “afraid of getting the results.”
A proper diet of adequate fiber and less fat reduces the risk of colorectal cancer. Consuming a few cups of coffee daily has also been found to lower the risk.
A new study led by Prof. Gad Rennert has found that sending SMSs via cellphones is a good way to get people to go for screening after they received an introductory letter and screening kit by mail.
A Seattle study found no statistical significance in the connection between the number of bowel movements and the risk of getting colorectal cancer. Regularly using laxatives without fiber raises the risk of the tumor, while taking laxatives with fiber lowers the risk. Consumption of fiber eliminated in the bowel reduces the concentration of carcinogens in the colon, researchers have found, but more studies are needed to confirm this finding.
A meta-analysis of epidemiological studies from Malaysia, India, and Mexico found that apple and berry juices, which contain antioxidant polyphenols, reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in mice, but the benefit has not yet been confirmed in humans.