Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 2024

01/03/2024 15:13:18

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 2024

Everything Important to Know About Colorectal Cancer in Israel

In the shadow of the ongoing war and on the occasion of International Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month observed in March 2024, the Israel Cancer Association presents new data and scientific research.


The ICA calls on women and men aged 50 and over to undergo a simple and free annual screening test at their HMO, and emphasizes that if a positive result is obtained, it is crucial to continue medical follow-up even during a period of security uncertainty.


The ICA stresses that if there is a family history of colorectal cancer, medical monitoring should begin at age 40 or 10 years before the age at which the disease was diagnosed in a close relative. At any age, if any symptoms that do not go away in the digestive system are noticed, it is important to seek medical evaluation.

Colorectal cancer is common among women and men at similar rates. It is the second most common cancer among women in Israel after breast cancer and the third most common among men after prostate and lung cancer. According to data from the World Health Organization, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. It is estimated that in 2020, more than 1.9 million new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed globally, and more than 930,000 deaths occurred due to this cancer.


According to estimates by the Israel Cancer Association, in 2023, about 3,000 women and men in Israel were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and about 1,300 Israelis died from the disease.


According to data from the Ministry of Health published last year (March 2023), during 2020, 2,787 new cases of colorectal cancer were diagnosed in Israel, and 1,208 Israeli residents died from the disease that year.


Moshe Bar-Haim, CEO of the Israel Cancer Association, said: "Every month, about 250 women and men in Israel are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Early diagnosis can significantly reduce cancer mortality and sometimes even prevent its development. Therefore, we call on the public over the age of 50 to make sure they undergo a simple, free screening test at their HMO every year, which can save lives. At the same time, at any age, if you notice symptoms in the digestive system that do not go away, be sure to consult your family doctor and request medical evaluation."

Prof. Baruch Brenner, Chief Oncologist of Clalit Health Services and a member of the Executive Committee of the Israel Cancer Association, added: "It is essential for the public to understand that most colorectal cancers originate from a completely benign polyp that can become malignant over time. Therefore, when a positive result is obtained in a fecal occult blood test, further evaluation through a colonoscopy should be pursued without delay, as it enables the detection and removal of benign polyps, thus preventing the development of colorectal cancer."


Prof. Elizabeth Half, a member of the Israel Cancer Association's Update Committee, emphasized: "A family history of intestinal malignancies or polyps significantly increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, so in such cases, it is very important to determine if genetic testing is needed and to start medical monitoring from age 40 (or 10 years before the age at which the disease was diagnosed in a close relative). At any age, if any symptoms are noticed, such as new rectal bleeding, changes in bowel habits, or unexplained anemia, it is important to seek medical evaluation."


Since 2005, the National Colorectal Cancer Early Detection Program has been operating in Israel, initiated by the Israel Cancer Association and the Ministry of Health and implemented through the health funds. As part of the program, women and men over the age of 50 are invited to undergo a simple, free annual fecal occult blood screening test. The Israel Cancer Association emphasizes that at any age, it is very important to pay attention to signs and changes in the body. Colorectal cancer may not cause any symptoms initially, but it can also cause one of the following symptoms: changes in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, soft and mucous stools, constipation, changes in stool caliber lasting more than a few days, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, rectal bleeding (the blood can be red or the color of a walnut and may even tend to be black), abdominal pain, weakness/anemia due to iron deficiency, and weight loss. The appearance of any of these symptoms requires consulting a family doctor. In such cases, the doctor may consider referring for a colonoscopy. However, occult blood tests are not intended for people with these complaints but rather for healthy individuals without symptoms.


Recommendations from experts at the Israel Cancer Association for reducing the risk of colorectal cancer:

  • Maintain a healthy and balanced diet, and maintain a normal body weight - it has been proven that being overweight and obese increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. Avoid processed meats and limit consumption of red meat, processed, smoked, fried, salty, and preserved foods. Studies have shown a close link between vegetable consumption and reduced risk of developing colorectal cancer.

  • Incorporate physical activity into your daily routine and limit sitting time - engage in moderate physical activity such as walking, swimming, cycling, or other aerobic activities for at least half an hour daily. Try to incorporate activity into your daily life during the workday, as a means of getting from one place to another, in household chores, or during leisure time. Research has shown that increased physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of mortality from colorectal cancer.

  • Limit alcohol and sweetened beverage consumption, and it is preferable to avoid them entirely - consumption of alcoholic beverages should be minimized as much as possible as part of a healthy lifestyle that reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer and other types of cancer. At the same time, it is advisable to avoid sweetened beverages, which increase the risk of colorectal cancer. A recent large study involving more than 100,000 people found that those who consumed one or more sweetened beverages per day had a 38% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer and twice the risk of dying from the disease.

  • Avoid smoking cigarettes and all tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, heated tobacco products, and hookah - there is no safe level of consumption for any type of smoking, and even smoking one cigarette a day or only at social events can lead to illness and premature death. Numerous studies have indicated a link between smoking and colorectal cancer.