THE PREVALENCE OF COLON CANCER?
In the realm of cancer, colon cancer takes a prominent position as the second most common form, trailing only behind lung cancer for men and breast cancer for women.
In the 21st century, lifestyle-related factors have played a significant role in its prevalence. High-fat, low-fibre diets, sedentary living, smoking, and a rise in intestinal diseases have all contributed.
At Miskawaan Integrative Cancer Care, our approach to colon cancer treatment addresses both the cancer cells and essential lifestyle adjustments to mitigate risk factors.
DECIPHERING THE ANATOMY
The colon is a huge circular tube made of smooth muscles. It’s the last part of the digestive tract, and it’s approximately 5 feet long and 3 inches at its widest part.
The colon is commonly referred to as the large intestine, and it’s subdivided into:
- Ascending colon
- Transverse colon
- Descending colon
- Sigmoid colon
Colon cancer, scientifically known as colorectal cancer, originates from an overgrowth of normal colon cells, initially presenting as colorectal polyps. These precancerous growths take root in the inner lining of the colon and rectum, affecting regular bowel movements.
If long-standing colorectal polyps are present, the risk of developing colon cancer escalates. Hence, regular colorectal cancer screenings are crucial in detecting and addressing potential issues before they escalate.
WHAT CAUSES COLON CANCER?
At the core of colon cancer lies DNA markers and the growth of cells within the large intestine. When the DNA sequence suffers damage, often due to exposure to risk factors, cells can start to grow abnormally and divide uncontrollably.
These aberrations commence as benign polyps, evolve into precancerous forms, and ultimately progress to colon cancer. Depending on the stage of the disease, cancerous cells may extend to impact surrounding tissues and nearby lymph nodes.
For example, stage III colon cancer signifies the spread to nearby lymph nodes, while stage IV indicates migration to distant organs like the liver, peritoneum, lung, and brain. Furthermore, cancer cells release toxins that disrupt the immune system’s ability to combat them, fueling their growth and spread.
PREVENTABLE RISK FACTORS
- High-Fat, Low-Fibre Diet: Foods high in fat, especially meats and processed items, harbor chemicals that can alter cell DNA. In contrast, fibre-rich diets facilitate healthy bowel habits, swift food transit, and nourish beneficial microbes that combat abnormal cells.
- Alcohol Use: Excessive alcohol consumption elevates the risk of various cancers, including colorectal cancer. Ethanol in alcohol metabolizes into acetaldehyde, a compound linked to cell and gene damage.
- Physical Inactivity: Sedentary lifestyles heighten the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Engaging in regular physical activity not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also regulates hormones and bolsters the immune system.
NON-PREVENTABLE RISK FACTORS – INHERITED SYNDROMES
- Genetics: Certain genetic mutations inherited from parents predispose individuals to colon cancer. Syndromes like Lynch Syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis can substantially elevate the risk.
- Age: While age is a significant factor, cases of colorectal cancer in individuals under 50 have been on the rise. Prolonged exposure to various carcinogens heightens the risk of developing colorectal polyps.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Chronic inflammation in any part of the colon can lead to cellular changes and gene alterations, increasing the risk of colorectal cancer. Conditions like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis require diligent management to mitigate this risk.
TAKING CHARGE OF PREVENTION
While some risk factors may be beyond our control, there are proactive steps we can take to minimize the chances of developing colorectal cancer:
- Embrace a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, low in trans fats.
- Prioritize regular physical activity or structured exercise routines.
- Consume alcohol in moderation or consider cessation if at risk.
- Avoid smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke.
- Maintain a healthy weight through balanced lifestyle choices.