Which cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men in the United States? It’s also the third leading cause in women! It’s also something that many people are not comfortable talking about.

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the answer. March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness month so if you have been seeing more blue ribbons around and were wondering what it’s all about, now you know!

Colorectal cancer is preventable, treatable, and beatable. Many risk factors for colorectal cancer are within your control. By taking control of the following risks, you not only reduce your chance of developing colorectal cancer, you improve your overall health too!

Being overweight and inactive each separately increase the chances of developing colorectal cancer. Committing to regular exercise will decrease the risk of CRC and help to maintain a healthy weight. It’s like knocking out two risk factors with one change.

Quitting smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grain fibers and low in red meats and processed meats will also reduce colorectal cancer risk.

There are also risk factors that you can’t really control. Among these are having a personal or family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer or having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.

Folks who are 50 or older are also at greater risk and should talk to their doctor about being screened for colorectal cancer. You may be thinking “I’m not going to ask for a colonoscopy!” There are a variety of screening options. Some are less invasive than others and some are less expensive than others. Talk with your doctor and see which would work best for you. When detected early, colorectal cancer can be cured. If you don’t have insurance, contact your local health department. You may qualify for free screening. If you’re in one of the following counties and lack insurance, call: Allegany County (301-759-5121); Garrett County (301-334-7770); Frederick County (301-600-3362); Washington County (240-313-3235).

Want more information? Check out Cancer.org/cancer/colon-rectal-cancer.html.

Liz Thompson, MSW, has been a case manager at the Frederick County Health Department for over seven years.