Among the most prevalent cancers and leading causes of death in developed countries are those of the colon and rectum – aka colorectal cancer. These conditions require stringent medical treatment – but there are preventative measures anyone can initiate to minimize their chances of developing this serious form of illness.
Colorectal cancer has usually been present in the body for some time before it is discovered. It is a slow growing disease, and it could be some time before there are any noticeable symptoms (which include bleeding during bowel movements, pain, fatigue and feelings of malaise).
Colorectal cancer is an epithelial cancer – the cancer arises from cells lining the intestinal tract. This epithelial lining undergoes uncontrolled growth (aka hyperproliferation), which can lead either to colorectal cancer, or polyps. Polyps are lumpy growths which shoot up from the epithelium.
The longer an untreated polyp stays in the colon, the greater the risk of colorectal cancer. To give you an example – a polyp 1 cm in size or greater that has been present in the colon for 5 years, increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer by 2.5 per cent above those without polyps. After 10 years, the risk increases by 8%, and after 20 years the risk is 24% higher.
Colorectal cancer was previously less common in countries which had retained their native, healthy diets. For instance, the incidence of this form of cancer was previously much lower in Japan than the USA. However, as Japan has become more westernized and adopted more fast and fatty foods, colorectal cancer is steadily on the rise.
What many studies tell us is that colorectal cancer and diet are closely linked. Diets high in highly processed convenience foods and low in fresh fruits, vegetables and grains promote uncontrolled growth of epithelial tissues which in turn have been shown to increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
While diet is not the sole cause of colorectal cancer, I believe the most effective way to reduce your risk of this disease is through modifying what you eat.
Please read my article How To Eat Well for nutritional advice about to improve your diet and minimize the factors which contribute to colorectal cancer.