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Colorectal Cancer Is on Rise. Do You Know Your Risks?


written by Dr. Christine Bishara - Mar 21, 2022

Photo Credit: by JESHOOTS.com, Pexels.com
Photo Credit: by JESHOOTS.com, Pexels.com

The Incidence of colorectal cancer has been increasing globally, particularly in younger individuals. According to the National Cancer Institute, the incidence of colorectal cancer in those under the age of fifty has increased by fifty-one percent since 1994.

Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center - Dana-Farber Cancer Institute | Boston, MA

What is the cause of this increased incidence?

The most likely factors are diet and lifestyle changes but we will explore emerging data that highlight the role of the gut microbiome, stress, sun exposure and vitamin D deficiencies as significant factors.

The most common risk factors include:

● Family history of colorectal cancer

● Personal history of colorectal cancer

● Familial genetic polypoidal conditions

● Obesity

● Smoking

● Alcohol

● Diets high in processed, highly saturated foods and low in fiber

● History of Inflammatory bowel disease

● Lack of physical exercise

Some Interesting Facts:

● Globally, the countries with the highest incidence of colon cancer are Hungary and South Korea. This could be due to several possible factors including the high fat, low fiber diet prevalent in these countries. Other factors noted are the heavy alcohol consumption in Korea and the lack of timely cancer screenings in Hungary.

● The lowest incidence of colorectal cancer is in Africa. This may be due to the adequate sun exposure/vitamin D absorption as well as the high fiber diet.

● Overall incidence of colon cancer is higher in men than women.

● Left sided and rectal cancers are more common in those diagnosed at earlier ages, while right sided is more common in older individuals.

● Studies are now linking the importance of our gut microbiome in the role of inflammation and immune health with the presence of certain bacterial strains such as fusobacterium and providencia to be associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. New colon cancer culprit found in gut microbiome

● Inadequate sun exposure and low vitamin D levels have been shown in several studies to increase risk of colorectal cancer. Too Little Sunlight, Vitamin D May Raise Colon Cancer Risk | Health News

● Chronic stress has also been implicated due to the release of stress and immune responders in the body causing chronic inflammation and colon cancer risk.

While symptoms may be present, many individuals have no symptoms at all, which is why colon cancer screening is so important.

The most common symptoms include:

● Change in bowel habits. This was the most common symptom present at time of diagnosis.

● Rectal bleeding, especially when present with change in bowel habits.

● Rectal or abdominal mass

● Iron deficiency anemia

● Abdominal pain

Who should get screened?

In 2021 the US preventive Services Task force changed the age of onset of cancer screening to from 50 to 45 for individuals with average risk. Those with higher risks such as family history or inflammatory bowel disease should follow closely with a gastroenterologist and assess the need for screening tests earlier.

The most common screening test is a colonoscopy. Some individuals who are lower risk can speak to their doctors about the possibility of doing a Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT).

The FIT uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool.

Some lifestyle and diet tips that can help lower your risks:

● Eat a high fiber diet. Eliminate processed meats, fried foods and sugary foods, especially sugary drinks.

● Quit smoking. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation aids such as a nicotine patch https://www.canadapharmacyonline.com/DrugInfo.aspx?name=Nicoderm4395 and medications such as Varenicline and Buy Chantix Online – Varenicline Canada. Studies have shown that the two combined together may increase chances of successful cessation.

● Spend 20-30 minutes walking outdoors to get adequate sun exposure and some exercise. Check your vitamin D levels and supplement. A good dose to start with is 1000 units of Vitamin D3 similar to these https://www.canadapharmacyonline.com/DrugInfo.aspx?name=Vitamin+D6269

And remember to always consult with your doctor and make sure to stay up to date with your cancer screenings.

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