March is National Colorectal Awareness Month. The annual campaign helps raise awareness of colorectal cancer—the major gastrointestinal cancer affecting the large intestine and rectum.
In the U.S., colorectal cancer is considered the third most common cancer, leading to the third most cancer deaths (behind lung/bronchus and prostate/breast cancers). The American Cancer Society estimates 132,700 new colorectal cases in 2015. As a result, about 49,700 are expected to die from the disease.
Why Early Colorectal Detection Is Important
Luckily, there is plenty of good news. Since the mid-1980s, the incidence of colorectal cancer has been in steady decline. In fact, occurrences of colorectal cancer have dropped by 3.4% every year from 2001 to 2010.
What is the main reason for this decrease? Increased colorectal cancer screening has led to early detection and precancerous polyps removal. The polyps can develop into colorectal cancer after about 10 to 15 years. Colorectal cancer is one of the few cancers that can be prevented, especially when adults 50 and above receive the proper standardized screening methods.
Methods to Detect Colorectal Cancer
According to a 2013 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, colonoscopies are the most common screening tests performed for colorectal cancer. Approximately 65% of American adults receive colorectal cancer screening and about 62% of these patients are screened through a colonoscopy.
The invasiveness of a colonoscopy isn’t pleasant; I think we can all agree. After all, your bowel must be cleaned before the procedure. Luckily, there are other screening methods available.
A fecal occult blood test (FOBT) is a stool test designed to detect bleeding, which may be an indication of polyps or cancer. A sigmoidoscopy is an exam of the lower colon and the rectum, but it does not test the entire colon. The combination of an FOBT and sigmoidoscopy can identify nearly 75% of colorectal patients.
A dual-contrast barium exam, stool DNA test, and CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) are other tests sometimes used for colorectal cancer detection.
Dietary and Lifestyle Factors to Prevent Colorectal Cancer
All of these screening tests have likely saved many lives; however, there are several dietary and lifestyle preventative methods you can adopt as well. Here are five of the most common lifestyle and dietary factors that can be used to help prevent colorectal cancer…
Natural folate is an important nutrient for colorectal cancer prevention. Aim to increase folate-containing foods in your diet, such as lentils, pinto beans, asparagus, and leafy greens. Folate supplementation can also be taken in conjunction with folate-rich foods.
One important note: the folate you take matters. Folic acid is synthetic folate, and some research indicates folic acid may increase the incidence of colorectal cancer. It’s best to avoid folic acid supplementation.
Fish oil is a high source of omega-3 fatty acids, and it may also help with a colorectal cancer prevention supplementation protocol. Fish oil can prevent polyps and colon cell overgrowth. In a study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition, researchers found omega-3 may reduce the creation of colon cancer cells.
A growing amount of evidence supports the theory that Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can reduce your colorectal cancer risk, but they can cause harmful side effects, like stomach irritation and bleeding. Curcumin is a natural anti-inflammatory alternative that can help prevent many cancers, including colorectal.
Adequate exercise is important to prevent most diseases, including colorectal cancer. Physical inactivity, obesity, and type 2 diabetes increases your risk of the disease. You can lower your risk of colorectal cancer with at least 30 minutes of exercise, five days a week.
Other Colorectal Cancer Prevention Methods
Other preventative supplementation may include:
- Vitamin D
- Antioxidants like vitamins A, C, and E
Overall, you should maintain a healthy diet, and increase your intake of fibrous vegetables and fruits, such as organic dark-green, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, and celery.
What foods should you avoid? Red and processed meats and sugar are considered foods that can increase your colorectal cancer risk. It is best to cut these foods from your diet or minimize your intake.
It is also important to consider other possible risk factors, such as:
- Cigarette smoking
- A history of breast cancer, family history of colorectal cancer, or a current cancer presence
- Alcohol consumption
- Inflammatory bowel disease
See More :
- Top Foods, Supplements, and Treatments to Fight Colon Cancer Naturally
- The Two Factors That Boost Your Risk of Colorectal Cancer
- What You Can Do to Prevent Colon Cancer
Sources for Today’s Article:
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Murray, M., et al., How to Prevent and Treat with Natural Medicine (New York: Riverhead Book, 2002), 95–104.
Roynette, C.E., “n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and colon cancer prevention,” Clinical Nutrition April 2004; 23(2): 139–151.
Lim, T.G., “Curcumin suppresses proliferation of colon cancer cells by targeting CDK2,” Cancer Prevention Research April 2014; 7(4): 466–474, doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-13-0387.
Stevens, V.L., “High levels of folate from supplements and fortification are not associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer,” Gastroenterology July 2011; 141(1): 98–105, doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2011.04.004.
Adams, C., “Synthetic Folic Acid May Contribute to Colorectal Cancer,” GreenMedInfo web site, January 9, 2013; http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/synthetic-folic-acid-may-contribute-colorectal-cancer2.
“Vital Signs: Colorectal Cancer Screening Test Use — United States, 2012,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report November 8, 2013: 62(44); 881–888.
“Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures,” American Cancer Society web site; http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/colorectal-cancer-facts-figures, last accessed March 23, 2015.
“Can colorectal polyps and cancer be found early?” American Cancer Society web site; http://www.cancer.org/cancer/colonandrectumcancer/detailedguide/colorectal-cancer-detection, last accessed March 23, 2015.