I have personally known a few people who have passed away from colon cancer, and being as it is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, odds are you also have lost a loved one or an acquaintance to colon cance. While nothing can guarantee you will never be diagnosed with colon cancer, there are lifestyle factors you can take to mitigate the risk of you ever having it. These factors are consuming a healthy diet, and not living a sedentary lifestyle. There are some risk factors we cannot control, yet I want to ensure that you are made aware of all the risk factors that are under your control. There are more than some might believe. But first:
Causes of colon cancer.
From Mayo Clinic:
Doctors are not certain what causes most colon cancers.
In general, colon cancer begins when healthy cells in the colon develop changes in their DNA. A cell’s DNA contains a set of instructions that tell a cell what to do.
As I have written in Macronutrients, the Building Blocks of Life we must ensure that our diets receive enough protein to provide us with the 9 essential amino acids that our bodies cannot produce and can only come through what we consume. A human body whose diet is lacking in these essential amino acids over a period of time will damage your DNA, which in turn only increase your risk of cancers.
Healthy cells grow and divide in an orderly way to keep your body functioning normally. But when a cell’s DNA is damaged and becomes cancerous, cells continue to divide – even when new cells are not needed. As the cells accumulate, they form a tumor.
With time, the cancer cells can grow to invade and destroy normal tissue nearby. And cancer cells can grow to other parts of the body to form deposits there (metastasis),
Factors that may increase your risk of colon cancer include:
- Older age. Colon cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but a majority of people with colon cancer are over 50. The rates of colon cancer in people younger than 50 have been increasing, but doctors are not sure why. Could it simply be that many younger people have not grown up with healthy dietary habits and live sedentary lifestyles? You have to wonder the percentages of those under 50 with colon cancer who grew up eating sugary treats and eating fast food burgers and fries along with delivery pizzas.
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. If you have already had colon cancer or non-cancerous colon polyps, you have a greater risk of colon cancer in the future. This would be your wake up call to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
- Inflammatory intestinal conditions. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Chrohns Disease, can increase your risk of colon cancer. I knew an individual once who I thought was about insane as even though he had Chrohns Disease, he still ate foods that would trigger it in a bad way. Simply because, in his own words, “No one is going to tell me how to live my life”. That is good and fine, but for the fact these conditions along with cancer always affect others in your life too.
- Inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk. Some gene mutations passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colon cancer significantly. Only a small percentage of colon cancers are linked to inherited genes. The most common inherited syndromes that increase colon cancer risk are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch Syndrome, which is also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC). If you know that you have inherited syndromes that leave you at a high risk for colon cancer, it is imperative that you live as healthy a lifestyle as you can, otherwise you are likely to become another familial statistic.
- Family history of colon cancer. You are more likely to develop colon cancer if you have a blood relative who has had the disease. If more than one family member has colon or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater. I got my first wake up call to what a horrible disease colon cancer can be when I was but a little boy. My great uncle Floyd passed away from colon cancer. Even though I was quite young when he passed, I still remember the sight and smell of the poor man rotting from the inside as cancerous abscesses formed inside his colon. I still remember family members having to keep him clean as the rancid drainage poured out of his rectum as he laid in his bed helpless. Such a sad demise of a man who had been robust enough to make his way in life as a family farmer. This disease took a tough man and made him feeble and helpless in the end.
- Low fiber, high fat diet. Colon cancer and rectal cancer may be associated with a typical western diet, which is low in fiber, high in fat, and calories. Research in this area has had mixed results. Some studies have found an increased risk of colon cancer in people who diets high in red meat and processed meat. Ok, even if you are not going to think about yourself, at least consider the children who may be in your life. It is a simple fact that is obvious to the naked eye, that in America today we have an over abundance of children with weight control issues. I have written about this sad state of affairs at Child Neglect, Abuse Related to Obesity. While the occasional Happy Meal, pizza and ice cream cones are not a problem when used as a treat, think of what you are doing to your child when this is about all that you feed them. No parent in the right mind want to doom their children to a early death from colon cancer, but when you do not instill healthy dietary and physical activities into their young lives, you most certainly increase their risk. What misery do you want to bring upon them by never taking the time to instill into them healthy habits during their formative years and there after?
- A sedentary lifestyle. People who are inactive are more likely to develop colon cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer. Is your life really so busy that you truthfully cannot dedicate a minimum of 30 minutes for yourself to at least go for a walk? Or, are you just making excuses as a walk might not be as interesting as the latest drama playing on the boob tube? Ask yourself if your life is worth more to you than some of your tasks at hand that you use in order to prevent you from healthy physical activity. Truth be told, even those of us who thrive on exercise often have to drag ourselves into getting started on some days. But, we do it whether we want to or not.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes or insulin resistance have an increased risk of colon cancer. If you make the personal choice, you can manage and or reverse your type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance as I written about here, and here as well as in many other articles.
- Obesity. People who are obese have an increased risk of colon cancer and an increased risk of dying from colon cancer when compared to people of normal weight. With very few exceptions, this part of your life can be controlled once you make the personal choice to do so. If you are obese, you know that your dietary habits are not good. You can lie to anyone, everyone, including yourself that your eating is not a problem, yet the truth will always come out when you have to sit at a table in a restaurant because you no longer fit in a booth. You know you have a problem when you are eating the same amount of calories per day as a hard core trained athlete might. You know something needs done when walking up stairs becomes a chore and you have lost your pride to asking for seat belt extenders when buckling up on an airline. With all the problems which arise from obesity, you certainly do not need anymore piled onto your plate. You can promote Self Lovely all day long for your obesity and that of others, but this is going to be made more absurd once you begin leaking smelly, bloody puss from cancerous abcesses in your colon. Davids Way is dedicated to giving you all the information you require to lose weight in a healthy manner in order to get to a good body fat percentage for your body.
- Smoking. People who smoke have an increased risk of colon cancer. Oh lord, how much needs to be said about smoking. It is not rocket scence to figure out this is the dumbest and one of the dirtiest habits one can have. Just don’t.
- Alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol increases your risk of colon cancer. Moderate or social drinking is fine for some, but for others, keeping it moderate or social is not possible. If you have ever experienced a hang over, black out or the joy of puking in a ditch, you know this shit is not so good for you either. Evaluate what is truly important in your life.
- Radiation therapy for cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers increases your risk of colon cancer. Your therapy for any type of cancer is strictly between you and your physician. Ensure before you ever undergo an type of treatment that you first, fully understand the risks compared to the benefits.
Lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of colon cancer:
- Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Be sure you are consuming enough fiber to keep your bowel functions regular and normal.
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.
- Stop smoking!
- Exercise most days of the week. Get up and move your body with a purpose. For your exercise to truly benefit yourself, then you must get your heart rate elevated into the aerobic, fat burning zone for at least 30 minutes, at least 4 days per week.
- Maintain a healthy weight or body fat percentage. We concentrate more on body fat percentages as you can actually have yourself to what is considered a healthy weight while still having an unhealthly level of visceral fat.
Screening for colon cancer.
Doctors recommend that people with an average risk of colon cancer consider colon cancer screening around age 50. But people with an increased risk, such as those with a family history of colon cancer, should consider screening sooner.
Several screening options exist – each with it’s own benefits and drawbacks. Talk about your options with your doctor, and together you can decide which tests are appropriate for you. (1)