Specialist Tips to Avoid Colorectal Cancer
Colorectal cancer represents the 3rd leading cause of cancer fatalities in US citizens, even though it's also one of the most preventable.
The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 105,000 cases of colon cancer and nearly 45,000 cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed this year, with colorectal cancers estimated to lead to more than 52,000 deaths in 2022.
While timely screenings have reduced fatalities over the past decade, cases of colorectal cancer deaths in individuals younger than 55 have increased by 1% from 2008 to 2017.
Vi K. Chiu, MD, Ph.D., believes that healthy people rarely consider prevention against illnesses and offers six tips for avoiding this affliction.
1. Get Screened
Colorectal cancer screenings have allowed physicians to detect and successfully address such cases, as they are highly treatable when uncovered early. Individuals with a medium risk of developing the illness should get tested before 45. Those with family members diagnosed with the affliction are advised to get screened at 40. Screening is also advisable ten years before the diagnosis of the youngest first-degree relative. There are three main methods of screening:
- Colonoscopy – Considered the gold standard in the industry, the procedure is performed with the help of a flexible tube fitted with a small video camera and light inserted in the patient's rear end to confirm the presence of abnormal growths visually.
- Fecal immunochemical test (FIT)-DNA test – Combines checking for blood in the stool and a subsequent trial for cancerous DNA in the sample.
- FIT-only test – Detects hidden blood in the stool from the lower intestines and is performed at home by taking a few stool samples and sending them for lab testing.
2. Mindful Diet
Diets that include fruit, vegetables, and whole grains are associated with a low risk of developing the condition. It's recommended to limit the intake of beef, pork, lamb, and processed meats to small amounts and to consume whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and whole bread. Research likewise suggests that low vitamin D levels are associated with a higher risk of developing colorectal cancers.
3. Physical Activity
Exercise can mitigate inflammation and reduce colorectal cancer concerns. Individuals with bowel conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's are more at risk, and exercise can help them reduce inflammation in the gut and improve immune surveillance. It's recommended to exercise for at least 2 ½ to 3 hours a week at moderate intensity.
4. Pay Attention to Your Weight
Obesity and increased weight can affect hormones like insulin and leptin and increase colorectal cancer risks, with elevated insulin levels potentially leading to abnormal colon cell growth. Dr. Chiu recommends limiting sugar, fat, and salt intake while opting for healthier foods such as fish, vegetables, and other healthy alternatives that favor maintaining a healthy weight.
5. Drink Less
Alcohol consumption can lead to intestinal and even DNA damage, inflaming the intestinal tract and weakening its immunity, thus increasing colorectal cancer risks. Drinking alcohol should be limited to no more than one drink per day.
6. No Smoking
Smoking leads to DNA damage and intestinal and pulmonary inflammation; it can also lead to hypoxia where tissues are not adequately oxygenated and develop abnormal cell growth resulting in cancer. A study conducted in 2020 in Germany shows that active smoking increased colorectal cancer risks by 59%, while prior smoking was associated with a 19% increase. Individuals that ceased smoking for more than 20 years face no such risk increases.