March is colorectal cancer awareness month, and it serves as an important reminder for everyone on how easily one can develop this kind of cancer.
Given its symptoms that usually start without any noticeable health conditions, colonoscopy is the go-to preventive measure to help diagnose and treat this type of cancer.
An Overview of Colon and Rectal Cancer
Most people just use the term colorectal cancer because colon and rectal cancer are almost identical. If the cancer growth begins in the rectum, then its early stage can be specified as rectal cancer, the same would be true for colon cancer.
Colorectal cancer, as per worldwide cancer data of 2018, is the third most common cancer affecting 1,800,977 individuals and is the second leading killer cancer in the US.
Colorectal or “bowel” cancer is often caused by abnormal cell mutation in the lining of the rectum or the colon. Once these mutations grow and multiply they start as colorectal polyps that may be benign at first and some, but not all, may become cancerous.
The cancerous polyps can grow easily for years without being noticed immediately. And like many other cancers, they’re growth can be attributed to several health factors that can include radiation and pollution.
The growth of cancer cells or tumors can then be classified by stages depending on how large it is and how far it has spread inside your body. Anyone can develop polyps in the large intestine or colon, removing it lowers its risk of mutating to cancer. For this reason, early diagnosis and intervention is the best approach to dealing with this kind of cancer.
The increasing numbers of colorectal cancer patients are quite alarming because its symptoms are easily overlooked. There are some myths about colorectal cancer that are already debunked, including that if you don’t experience any symptoms, you are safe from it.
Several factors can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer. This includes certain genetic disorders, obesity, various lifestyle choices, even age. Understanding these risk factors may also help you assess the proper course of action to reduce the threat of getting colorectal cancer.
What Are The Different Risk Factors Surrounding Colorectal Cancer
Because the exact cause of this cancer is not yet identified you have to watch out for the risk factors that are linked to bowel cancer. Risk factors could be categorized into two classifications.
The first type of risk is factors that you have control over, such as your lifestyle choices and your diet.
Poor Nutrition – Diets that are heavy on red meats like beef, lamb, liver, and pork increases your risk of getting colorectal cancer. Processed foods such as hotdogs, luncheon meat, and chicken nuggets also put you at a greater risk.
Another factor that increases the risks of having colorectal cancer is having a low-fiber and high-fat diet. In relation, a diet that is high on ultra-processed food that has empty calories from fast food is associated with declining health status.
Aside from certain kinds of food, some cooking methods can also contribute to a higher bowel cancer risk. Although it is not sure how much it increases the risk, cooking methods that involve high temperatures such as frying, grilling, and broiling are the most associated with this observation.
Heavy Alcohol Consumption – Alcoholic beverages have been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a carcinogenic substance for humans. Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption has strong links towards acquiring colorectal cancer.
Tobacco Use – Like alcohol, tobacco is also considered as a carcinogenic substance for humans. Experts suggest that tobacco smokers are more likely to develop certain types of cancer not limited to lung cancer and colorectal cancer. Tobacco users also have a higher mortality rate than non-smokers.
Lack of Physical Activity – Individuals who lack physical activities and exercise have a higher risk of getting colon cancer.
Obesity – Being overweight is also heavily associated with an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
The reason for this factor being last on the list is because being overweight can be caused by other underlying health conditions. This particular factor might not be a lifestyle choice, unlike the others.
Which brings us to the second type of risk factor, the ones you can not change.
Age – Younger individuals are at a lower risk of getting colorectal cancer, but it doesn’t make them immune. People who are 50 years old and above are observed to have a higher risk of getting this disease.
Normally when there is a growth of mutated cells, your immune system identifies and destroys them. Getting older reduces your body’s ability to locate and attack these cells. For this reason, experts suggest having a routine colorectal screening starting at the age of 45.
Genetics – a combination of shared environmental factors in the family and inherited genes may determine your likelihood of getting colorectal cancer. If your family has a history of colon or rectal cancer, then you might be at a much higher risk.
Several inherited genes can cause colorectal cancer to at least 5% of the individuals who acquired the genes from their relatives. These genes cause syndromes that would increase your chances of getting colorectal cancer.
The two most inherited genes that can cause colorectal-related syndromes are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
It’s estimated that 1% of all colorectal cancers are caused by this hereditary syndrome. Familial adenomatous polyposis causes mutations in the APC genes that an individual can inherit from their parents. Acquiring FAP from your parents promotes the growth of polyps in the colon and rectum for as early as 12 years old. By the time the individual is 40, colorectal cancer is almost always expected to have been developed already especially if preventive measures aren’t observed.
Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, on the other hand, accounts for about 2 or 4 percent of all colorectal cancer cases. This syndrome is also called Lynch Syndrome, and it affects genes that normally help to fix DNA that is damaged.
Prevention of colorectal cancer is highly possible, especially if you understand how it can be acquired, and what precautionary measures to observe.