JAMAICANS over age 50 are being urged to get their colons tested amidst studies undertaken at the University of the West Indies that show an increase in persons with colon cancer.
Colon cancer surgeon Dr Devon Osbourne, who made the disclosure on Thursday, said the disease primarily affects persons who are aging, and that people over age 50 are most at risk.
"Colon cancer will kill you. It is the second most frequent cause of cancer deaths in men and about the third in women, so it is a serious disease. But it's one of those diseases that once detected early, can be cured," Dr Osbourne said.
He was addressing an audience of mostly seniors at a Men's Health Day hosted by the National Council for Senior Citizens (NCSC) and Mona Ageing and Wellness Centre at the Girl Guides Association Headquarters in Kingston.
Colon cancer first develops as a polyp -- a small growth on the lining of the colon -- and can be removed through a colonoscopy test.
He said signs such as bleeding in the stool, persistent colic and abdominal pains can imply the presence of colon cancer.
According to Dr Osbourne, while early detection is important, a healthy lifestyle free of smoking and red meat but including a diet rich in fruits and vegetables makes a significant difference in keeping the disease at bay.
"Trying to promote healthy living is by far a much more efficient way of utilising our health dollar than even trying to detect the cancer early," Dr Osbourne said.
The seniors who took part in Thursday's event also received information on nutrition and were treated to haircuts courtesy of students from HEART College of Beauty Services and pedicures and manicures from nurses at the NCSC.
According to NCSC Executive Director Beverley Hall-Taylor, the annual event is held in recognition of Men's Health Month, which is observed internationally in June to promote healthy lifestyles among senior men.
"We normally concentrate on prostate cancer, nutrition and exercise, but this year we decided to focus on colon cancer as we have noticed quite a few people complaining about colon problems," she said.
One participant, 75-year-old Harrington Thomas, said the session was informative.
"I come every year because I want to keep abreast of the health happenings and to put it into practice," he said. "My diet is going to change from today as I eat too much fatty food, but I am going try vegetarian."