Last year alone, over 50,000 people died of Colon Cancer. It is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths of men and women and is most deadly in many African American and underserved communities. This is due, in part, to the lack of comfort about discussing the disease and proper screening efforts. The encouraging truth is that this disease is over 90% curable when detected and treated early.
It is essential for all men and women to be screened for colorectal cancer by age 50 and African Americans at age 45. If there is a family history of colon cancer a Gastroenterologist or ColoRectal Surgeon will provide screening guidelines The colon is one of those body parts we don't pay much attention to unless it's not working properly or something goes wrong, but it is a vital contributor to overall health.
As part of the digestive system, it is primarily responsible for the absorption of water and minerals and the elimination of waste. The colon plays important roles in immune function, acts as a barrier protecting us from toxins and harmful bacteria, and supports the growth of millions of friendly bacteria that further digest some types of food, produce vital nutrients and further contribute to healthy immune function.
These are just some of the reasons why is so important to be proactive in protecting this important organ.Maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, choosing a diet high in fruits, vegetables, fiber and whole grains while avoiding too much red, processed meats and not smoking are key to maintaining colon health and also to preventing colon cancer.
In fact, more than half of all colon cancers can be prevented by healthy lifestyle choices alone. Screening for colorectal cancer is also important. Ninety-five percent of colon cancer cases can be cured if detected early, yet screening for colon cancer consistently lags behind screenings for other types of cancers. This is one reason why colon cancer remains a leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women despite being one of the most preventable and curable forms of cancer.
The American Cancer Society recommends that people lower their risk of developing colorectal cancer by managing the risk factors that they can control, such as diet and physical activity. Diets high in vegetables and fruits have been linked with a lower risk of colon cancer, and diets high in processed and/or red meats have been linked with a higher risk. The American Cancer Society recommends:
- Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant sources.
- Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat 5 or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
- Choose whole grains rather than processed (refined) grains.
- Limit consumption of processed and red meats
Highly respected physician, author, speaker, and a regular contributor to the Foundation Joel Fuhrman M.D. comments below
For those desiring more powerful protection, these guidelines are not sufficient and are still somewhat vague. For example, it is well established that 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day is still not ideal for cancer protection. This recommendation was made to improve the diet-style of Americans, whose typical grocery baskets are dramatically lacking in these protective foods, but the recommendation is still sub-optimal.
The recommendations as a whole were established in response to the dismally low intake of vegetables being consumed in America, and do not represent an ideal. The most recent scientific advancement in the anti-cancer research is the identification of specific foods and food elements that offer powerful protection against cancer.
Meat and Cancer
Accumulating epidemiologic evidence indicates that high consumption of red meat and processed meats increases the risk of colorectal cancer. A meta-analysis assessed the association between red meat and processed meat consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer from 29 studies. It showed a clear dose-response relationship, confirming higher intake corresponds with more cancers and a lower intake with less.
The consumption of red meat and processed meats on a regular basis more than doubled the risk of some cancers. Even ingesting a small amount of red meat, such as two to three ounces a day, was shown to significantly increase the risk of cancer. Red meat and processed meats contain more saturated fat and trans fat than other animal products, and, therefore, are poorer food choices.
These foods must not be a regular part of your diet if you are looking to maintain excellent health into your later years of life, because they promote heart disease and dementia too. The goal is to gradually reduce even the non-red meat animal products in your diet until you're only consuming them two to three times per week, but even at that low level of consumption the choice of animal products should exclude or only rarely consume processed meat and barbequed meat.
Sugar and White Flour and Cancer
It has been hypothesized that levels of triglycerides, glucose, and insulin are associated with increased risk of colon cancer and that diets high in simple sugars and white flour increase risk of colon cancer because of their impact on these factors. There are interesting similarities in the epidemiology of colorectal cancer and adult onset diabetes.
In a number of studies, diabetic patients have been shown to have an elevated risk of colorectal cancer and non-diabetics with elevated postprandial glucose levels also have a higher risk of colorectal cancer than individuals with normal glucose tolerance.
One explanation for these associations is that both diseases are linked to becoming overweight and the resultant metabolic effects and heightened inflammation that results, but it is interesting to note the evidence supporting the possibility that chronic exposure to diets rich in rapidly assimilated carbohydrates may act directly as a promoter of colorectal carcinogenesis.
Considering that both animal products and processed foods supply us with a rich caloric load, but not with antioxidants and phytochemicals necessary for the normal function of cells and the immune system, it may also be the lack of these nutritional elements that are important (as low-nutrient carbohydrates make up a higher percentage of total caloric intake).
Free radical production increases and chronic disease develops as the level of produce decreases in the diet and the combined consumption of animal products and processed foods increases. Epidemiological evidence supports the direct association between simple carbohydrates and risk of colon cancer. A population study reveals a particularly heightened risk when a diet high in refined carbohydrates is associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
Vegetables and Cancer
Even though the key dietary strategy for preventing cancer of the large bowel is to increase your intake of fresh vegetables and fruits (especially vegetables) while lowering the amount of animal products and meat eaten, the evidence that eating more green vegetables is protective for cancers of the colon and rectum, lung and prostate -- is building into an avalanche.
Cruciferous vegetables (the cabbage and broccoli family) are simply the most powerful weapon against all forms of cancer and especially colorectal cancer. Cruciferous vegetables have been studied extensively for their chemo protective effects. In experimental animals, cruciferous vegetables have been shown to inhibit chemically-induced colon cancer.
Human studies show a huge protective effect; people who were regular consumers of these foods had approximately 60 percent less cancer.Cruciferous vegetables act by altering the metabolism of carcinogens present in cooked food, such as the heterocyclic amines.
They help the body eliminate carcinogens and also keep free radicals in check, but even more fascinating is the body's ability (when fueled with a sufficient amount of these greens) to repair broken DNA cross-links and modify the expression of genes that influence the risk of colon cancer.
Vitamin D and Cancer
Studies in recent years have added more support to the idea that higher levels of vitamin D may decrease risk of colorectal cancer. Further, typical dietary intakes such as 200-400 IU/day may be too low to exert appreciable benefits, and protection may occur with higher levels of vitamin D. Recent studies also suggest a potential benefit of vitamin D on other digestive-tract cancers, and that vitamin D status at the time of diagnosis and treatment may influence cancer survival
For most Americans not living in and working outdoors in southern states, supplementation with 100 to 3000 IU's optimizes serum 25-hydroxy Vitamin D levels for protection against cancer and osteoporosis. The ideal levels can be confirmed with a blood test.
Eat For Health ~ Effective For All Health Conditions
The foundation of nutritional science can be explained by my simple formula: H = N / C or Health = Nutrients / Calories. This is a concept I call the nutrient density of your diet. The key to both longevity and healthful weight loss is to eat predominantly those foods that have a high proportion of nutrients (non-caloric food factors) compared to calories (carbohydrates, fats and proteins).
Maintaining a favorable body weight is an important component of an anti-cancer lifestyle. A food is healthy or not-so-healthy based on how much fiber, phytochemicals, antioxidants, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and other unnamed (or yet to be discovered) nutrients it contains in proportion to its calories.
You can grade food quality, construct menus, and make food choices to support excellent health. Once you know which foods have the highest nutrient density, you will become an expert in nutrition and weight loss. It is that simple.Eating large quantities of high-nutrient foods is the secret to optimal health, disease prevention and maintaining a healthy slim waistline.
The health equation describes a way of eating that is truly a longevity diet, yet it effortlessly has you achieve an ideal weight and it is an anti-cancer and anti-heart disease diet-style. A typical anti-cancer diet should contain at least 3 fresh fruits daily, at least one large raw green salad, as well as a two other cooked (steamed) vegetables, such as broccoli, carrots and peas, squash or other colorful vegetables.
A huge pot of soup ladened with vegetables, herbs and beans can be made once a week and conveniently taken for lunch. Raw nuts and seeds are another important, but often overlooked food with documented health benefits contributing to longevity. Many individuals are choosing to modify their lifestyle to improve their health or reverse diseases.
Unrefined plant foods and phytochemical support is the foundation of an anti-aging lifestyle. Most diseases are effectively treated and in many cases completely reversed through aggressive nutritional intervention.
Uncovering the cause, and fueling the miraculous natural repair systems that are built into your body is always a better choice that results in a more favorable outcome, rather than covering up symptoms with medications. More information on my cutting edge approach to health and longevity can be found at my website www.drfuhrman.com and in my Eat To Live book.
About The Authors
Executive Vice President, Susan Cohan Colan Cancer Foundation
Susie's Cause at Work Susan Cohan Colan Cancer Foundation (Susie's Cause) is a national grass-roots organization headquartered in Baltimore that has established itself as the National voice for the screening, prevention, and early treatment of Colon Cancer. The Foundation is striving to eliminate Colon Cancer as a life threatening disease through the development and the dissemination of educational programs designed to increase screening.
Since the inception of the Foundation colon cancer has experienced the greatest reduction in cancer deaths in the United States. Susie's Cause was named for Susan Cohan, a courageous young woman who was committed to changing these statistics.
It was her vision that by encouraging both prevention and early detection through innovative educational and outreach programs the Foundation would not only help spare others from unnecessary suffering and deaths from colon cancer, but would also be a trusted source of information, hope and support for those facing colon cancer, and for those researching ways to more successfully treat this disease.
For the past 6 years Susie's Cause has established itself as the National Voice for the prevention, screening, early detection and the treatment of colon cancer. For more information about Susie's Cause, visit our website at www.coloncancerfoundation.org or call 410 244 1778.