How we eat is the subject of much medical information, and it’s attached to so many illnesses that we can become almost numb to it. However, it is imperative for our futures that we heed the warnings. If our diets are linked to many diseases, then changing a few things in our lives will reduce our risks in countless areas. This is especially true when it comes to colorectal cancer, because the link is real.
Colorectal Cancer and Diet
Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States. In a recent study by the Cleveland Clinic, a definite link was found between a high-fat diet and the growth of cancer cells in the colon. Rats with colorectal cancer increased their cancerous stem cells when fed a high-fat diet. Cancer stem cells are aggressive, resilient, and are found to spread cancer as well as lead to recurrence, so understanding how to decrease or prevent their growth is important for people who currently suffer or have suffered from colorectal cancer.
Colorectal Cancer and Younger People
The age for diagnosis of colorectal cancer is trending down, meaning that more people are getting colorectal cancer at a younger age than in the past. In fact, the frequency of colorectal cancer has increased in millennials 3% each year since the 1970s. Additionally, young people are more likely to be diagnosed with a late-stage disease than older people. This is likely because younger people are not as concerned about cancer or other illness typically associated with old age, so they are more likely to ignore the signs or symptoms for longer. Parents can help by introducing a healthy lifestyle to the family while children are young to help develop good habits for life. Parents can also understand these important signs and symptoms and contact a specialist if any of these occur:
- Change in bowel habits that lasts longer than a few days – diarrhea, constipation, narrowing of stool.
- Cramping, abdominal pain, or constant feeling of needing to have a bowel movement.
- Dark or bloody stool.
- Ongoing weakness or fatigue.
- Unintended weight loss.
Colorectal Cancer Prevention
Research shows that the link between diet, weight, exercise, and colorectal cancer is one of the strongest of any type of cancer. Making adjustments in these areas can go a long way toward prevention of colorectal cancer as well as decrease the chance of recurrence. Since a high-fat diet is such a key component to cancer stem cell growth, it stands to reason that eliminating high fats from your diet is key. High fat includes things like red meats, processed meats, and greasy, fried food. Fiber-rich foods like vegetables and whole grains have also been shown to lower the risk of many types of cancer including colorectal cancer. Being overweight, especially in people with larger midsections, is a risk factor for colorectal cancer. The combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet will help in losing weight and maintaining that healthy weight. These are some of the best things you can do to lower your risk of colorectal cancer, both for you and your family.
Lifestyle changes are crucial, but it cannot be denied that screenings are still one of the best ways to identify potential cancer early. Colorectal cancer generally begins with polyps, which are abnormal tissue growths. From the time a polyp first starts to grow in the colon or rectum, it takes 10-15 years for it to turn into cancer, so catching it early can make all the difference. It is recommended that you start getting regular screenings at age 50 unless you are experiencing symptoms or have a family history of colorectal cancer, in which case you should talk with your gastroenterologist about the right time for your first screening.
If you are wondering if you should begin screening early, or if you have noticed symptoms in yourself or a millennial in your life is complaining of digestive issues, make an appointment with GI Associates today. We can assess any potential risk factors, schedule screenings, or answer any questions you may have about colorectal cancer.