It’s Not Too Late: Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors You Can Avoid

Did you know that colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in men and the second for women? Colorectal cancer, also known as colon cancer, bowel cancer, or rectal cancer, is a chronic disease affecting the colon and the rectum.

Although the advances in screening techniques and improvements in treatments have decreased the death rate of the disease, the American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates that roughly 1 in 21 men and 1 in 23 women in the United States will still develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime.

Cancer in the colon may either be benign or malignant. Malignant cancer can spread to other parts of the body, causing substantial damage.

What are the symptoms of colorectal cancer?

The symptoms of colorectal cancer are different depending on the patient, but all may experience the following:

  • Changes in bowel habits, which may include diarrhea or constipation
  • A sense that the bowel does not empty properly after a bowel movement
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Blood in the feces
  • Unusual pain and bloating in the abdomen
  • A feeling of fullness in the stomach, even after fasting
  • Constant exhaustion or fatigue
  • A lump in the abdomen or the back passage
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unexplained iron deficiency in men, or in menopausal women

The majority of these symptoms may also indicate other possible conditions. Therefore, it is crucial to see your doctor if any of your symptoms persist over a span of four weeks or more.

What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that heightens your chances of developing a disease such as cancer. However, having a risk factor does not automatically mean that you will get the disease. In some cases even, people who develop a chronic disorder may not have any known risk factors.

Colorectal cancer risk factors you can change

Several risk factors may increase your chances of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer. As a matter of fact, many lifestyle-related factors have been linked to colorectal cancer. These include the links between diet, weight, and exercise, which are some of the strongest risk factors for colorectal cancer.

1. Being overweight or obese

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) defines obesity as “a condition in which a person has an unhealthy amount and distribution of body fat.” Obesity is surprisingly common. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that “more than one-third (36.5%) of U.S. adults are obese, affecting 12.7 million children and adolescents from 2011 to 2014.”

In a previous article, we discussed how obesity could cause many health problems for everyone, noting that “it can trigger chronic conditions, as well as seriously compromise a person’s quality of life.” However, a more recent study conducted by CDC reveals that while new diagnoses of cancer have fallen significantly since the 1990s, cancers that are related to obesity have increased between 2005 to 2014. Furthermore, the research concludes that two in three overweight adults between the ages of 50 and 74 were diagnosed with cancer.

ACS notes that if you are overweight or obese, you increase your risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer. Being overweight raises the risk of colon and rectal cancer in both men and women, but the link is stronger in men.

2. Lack of physical activity

If you are physically inactive, you not only increase your chances of becoming obese, but you also heighten the possibility of developing colorectal cancer.

Evidence from multiple epidemiologic studies suggests that physical activity or exercising after a colorectal cancer diagnosis may reduce your risk of dying from the disease. In fact, an experiment with a large prospective cohort of colorectal cancer patients proved that those who engaged in physical activity had a 31% lower risk of death than those who did not.

3. Smoking smoking

It comes as no surprise that smoking is associated with colorectal cancer and several other chronic disorders. Smokers not only have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, but they also have a higher risk of dying from the disease.

“Cigarette smoke contains many carcinogens, benzopyrenes being the most well-known. It is believed that these carcinogens cause damage to the DNA and, over time, the body’s ability to repair that damage decreases,” says Thomas Imperiale, MD, professor of medicine and associate director for research for the Division of Gastroenterology at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

If you are a heavy smoker and want to know more about quitting, read CDC’s guide for quitting smoking.

4. Heavy consumption of alcohol

Like smoking, does it still surprise you how alcohol is on this list? Excessive alcohol use causes adverse effects on both physical and mental health. Heavy drinking can lead to the development of polyps in the colon, which are benign growths that may turn into colorectal cancer.

Although drinking alcohol may offer some health benefits (especially for your heart), too much of it may increase your risk of health problems, including the occurrence of different cancer types.

If you enjoy alcohol and you have the willpower to keep it moderate, then by all means, do so. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.”

5. Certain types of diets

A diet that is high in red meat (especially when processed) raises your colorectal cancer risk. The World Health Organization classifies processed meats such as ham, salami, frankfurts, and bacon as a Group 1 carcinogen. This indicates that there is very strong evidence of processed meats being a cause colon cancer. In addition, the majority of processed goods are incredibly high in fat, which brings us back to the topic of obesity and how it can lead to colorectal cancer.

Conclusion

In many cases, cancer is a preventable disease that requires major lifestyle changes. Of course, New Hope does not disregard hereditary aspects and other factors leading to colon cancer, but you have nothing to lose and only more to gain if you make significant changes to your lifestyle.

If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer and prefer a cross between conventional and alternative cancer treatments to combat your disease, we provide the most comprehensive treatment of chronic degenerative diseases and immune disorders. Call us today at 480-666-1403.

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