March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Minnesota and across the nation.

In recognition of this, Tri-County Health Care joins dozens of public and private landmarks from across the state to shine blue at its south-side entrance from dusk to dawn during the week of March 4-8. In addition, employees will wear blue on Tuesday, March 5, and raise money for the Colon Cancer Coalition. These actions bring attention to the nation's second-leading cause of cancer deaths for men and women in the U.S. and at the same time show support for local cancer patients and promote screening for this preventable cancer.

Some of those landmarks joining Tri-County Health Care include the cities of Wadena, Verndale, Sebeka, Ottertail and New York Mills, along with several others, which have issued a mayoral statement recognizing and honoring March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

The American Cancer Society recommends that screening for colon and rectal cancer should begin at age 45 for average-risk individuals. What many don't realize is screening should start earlier for individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps. One in 23 Americans will be diagnosed with this cancer in their lifetime, and 1 in 5 of those will be diagnosed before the age of 55.

What can be done to reduce the risk of colon cancer?

• Get screened as recommended, starting at age 45, or earlier for those with certain risk factors. Tri-County Health Care offers colonoscopies, as well as a minimally invasive option called Cologuard.

• Maintain a healthy weight, and adopt a physically active lifestyle.

• Understand the symptoms, and talk with your provider if you experience blood in your stool, chronic constipation, or unexplained weight loss.

• Consume a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains while limiting consumption of red and processed meats.

• Limit your alcohol consumption and don't smoke.