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Tips for Improving Black Health: Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Mar 13, 2022 03:00PM ● By Nana Ama Addo

( A Black family. Photo by Agung Pandit Wiguna from Pexels. A Colon. Image by Shelleyyavaughn via Wikimedia Commons Collard greens. Image by Nolabob via Wikimedia Commons No smoking sign. Image by Lynne Hand via Flickr Watermelon juice. Photo by Bruno Scramgnon from Pexels. )

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. To create awareness, and promote healthy lifestyles for Black people, we are highlighting strategies to prevent colon cancer.


( A Colon. Image by Shelleyyavaughn via Wikimedia Commons )

Colorectal cancer is a disease that affects 1 in 25 people in the United States and occurs when cells, usually mucus-making cells, in the rectum or colon grow uncontrollably. The colon, also known as the large intestine, the rectum, and anus are sections of the digestive tract that are responsible for transporting, digesting, and absorbing food to maintain and replenish the body. Colon cancer risks can be attributed to diet, tobacco use, a lack of physical activity, and other factors such as genetics.

African-American cultural foods are mixed with African influences, European recipes, and Native American influences. However, because most of the slave food allowances were unwanted food parts, soul food traditionally includes a lot of unhealthy food ingredients. A study by The Guardian discovered that traditional African diets, which include high-fiber foods, correlated with a lowered risk of bowel cancer.

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( Collard greens. Image by Nolabob via Wikimedia Commons. )

Some high fiber foods include potatoes, berries, avocados, nuts, popcorn, beans, dried fruits, whole grains, and broccoli. Foods that are unprocessed, low in fat, lean meats, and plant-based dishes are good for helping the body to replenish itself, and may reduce the risk of some health ailments. Colon cleansing foods like raspberries, oatmeal, and aloe vera are excellent additions to one’s diet. Incorporate healthy regimens by making aloe vera water, or drinking fruit smoothies.

The rise of vegetarianism and veganism has made alternative food ingredients accessible, so it may not be necessary to cut out treasured soul food dishes. Healthy alternatives like soy milk, vegan cheese, or even meat alternatives can allow communities to enjoy soul food while eating healthy.

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( A Black family. Photo by Agung Pandit Wiguna from Pexels. )

Tobacco use has a direct correlation with colorectal cancer. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that smoking can cause ailments including stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, immune diseases, and more, with over 16 million Americans having smoking-related diseases. In addition, secondhand smoke has been attributed to 400 infant deaths and 41,000 infant deaths every year.

Stress, pleasure, or social networking are reasons that may be attributed to why a person smokes, as reported by Smokefree Veterans. Although the knowledge that smoking harms the smoker and people around them, it can be difficult for smokers to disrupt the habit. Some strategies for quitting smoking and dealing with withdrawal include discovering the reason for smoking, creating a smoke-free vision board and lifestyle, picking up a new habit like exercise, not socializing with smokers, connecting with a support group, and thinking about the people you love.

( Watermelon juice. Photo by Bruno Scramgnon from Pexels. )

Excessive alcohol use can also contribute to colorectal cancer. Alcohol, even if drunk in moderation (1 drink a day for women 2 drinks a day for men), can cause irritability and anxiety, a weakened immune system, insomnia, and more. Because alcohol is a depressant, it can also cause depression. The CDC reports that drinking alcohol in excess can lead to liver disease, digestive problems, Lyme disease, cancer, dementia, and more. Swap an alcoholic drink with a virgin version or fruit juice to protect your health.

The benefits of physical activity are numerous, including lowering the risks of colorectal cancer. Staying active by spending less time sitting down, working out, or joining a dance class are great ways to increase physical activity.

Being aware of genetics in one’s family can help people to be aware, and to encourage the creation of healthier lifestyles. Speak with your family about generational health concerns.

What health advice do you have? Comment below!

Works Cited

 Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director, and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ). 

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