By JUDY SIEGEL-ITZKOVICH
Colon cancer – a totally preventible disease and more easily curable if diagnosed early, is annually diagnosed in 3,400 Israelis (nine a day) and kills 1,300 (four per day), according to the Israel Cancer Association.The ICA, which announced Colon Cancer Awareness Month on Tuesday, said that the rate of this kind of cancer was significantly higher among immigrants from the former Soviet Union who arrived in the 1990s, due to either their lifestyle there or their continuation of unhealthful lifestyles after their arrival.ICA chairman Miri Ziv said the event would be observed around the world this month and that here, public symposia and a massive media education campaign would be held in newspapers, on TV and radio, and on various Internet sites.Maintaining a normal weight, avoiding fatty foods, exercising regularly, minimizing consumption of alcohol, eating lots of legumes and fresh vegetables and fruits and possibly having higher levels of vitamin D in the blood can minimize the risk of colon cancer.The main target group for the campaign is those aged 50 to 74, plus younger people with a family history of colon cancer.Non-cancerous polyps can be detected before they become cancerous, by free annual tests for occult blood in the stools once a year at health fund clinics. Those who test positive must undergo a colonoscopy to investigate, while high-risk people should undergo a colonoscopy every three to five years. Colonoscopies are free in both cases.Dr. Micha Barchana, head of the Health Ministry’s national cancer registration unit, said that the prevalence of such tumors was declining in women, but rising among men. With the observation of a more Western lifestyle, the rate among Arabs is rising, but it is still lower than among the Jewish population.According to the ICA, more Israelis with colon cancer are being diagnosed at an early stage.Prof. Gad Rennert, head of the national program for early diagnosis of colon cancer, reported that last year, over 373,000 Israelis underwent occult blood tests and 95,000 had colonoscopies. But he said there were too many who tested positive and didn’t follow it up with a colonoscopy.Senior gastroenterologist Prof. Yaron Niv, meanwhile, noted that connections had been found between the polyomavirus and colon cancer. It was possible, he said, that one day a vaccine could be developed, just as a vaccine is currently available against the papillomavirus, which causes most cases of cervical cancer.The Health Ministry is aiming to have health funds send letters toeveryone in the relevant age group – some 1.35 million Israelis –inviting them to undergo occult blood tests once a year.More information is available around the clock at 1-800-995-599 or the ICA Web site, www.cancer.org.il.
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