Haims: Prevalence of colon cancer in people under 50 is alarming
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths and third most-commonly diagnosed cancer globally. Fortunately, each one of us can easily take preventative measures.
Data collected over the past few years has found that sedentary lifestyles, lack of physical activity, and the Western (American) diet are all contributing factors to the rise in colon cancer cases among younger individuals.
According to a study published by the American Cancer Society, the incidence of colon cancer among young adults has been on the rise over the past two decades, with an estimated 18,000 cases diagnosed each year. The study also found that young adults are more likely to be diagnosed at advanced stages of the disease, which can significantly impact their chances of survival.
Sedentary lifestyles and physical activity
The Oxford University Press published an article that contained data from many leading research institutions (Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, DanaFarber Cancer Institute to name a few) identifying several lifestyle factors that may contribute to the increased risk of colon cancer in young adults. Not surprisingly, sedentary lifestyles, characterized by prolonged periods of sitting or inactivity, are high on the list of habits linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Sedentary lifestyles and lack of physical activity promote excessive adiposity and therefore insulin resistance and chronic inflammation — both of which facilitate the process by which normal cells are transformed into colorectal cancer cells.
Conversely, according to the American Cancer Society, individuals who are physically active have a lower risk of developing colon cancer compared with those who are not. Dr. David Bodkin, a board-certified oncologist and hematologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa California recently stated that, “exercise increases antioxidant levels and DNA repair. It can also affect growth factor production and insulin metabolism in ways that reduce inflammation and increase immune function.”
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Western (American) diet
Although processed foods are convenient, they are likely responsible for many harmful and chronic diseases. The Western diet, high in processed foods, red meat, and saturated fats, is proving to be undoubtedly a contributing factor to the rise in colon cancer. This claim, supported by a study from Tufts University, found diets high in red meat and processed foods have been associated with a higher risk of colon cancer (and other cancers).
The association between a Western-style diet and colon cancer can be explained by scientific findings supporting a potential link between this diet style, intestinal microbiota, and the presence of a specific bacteria (pks+ E. coli). Data indicates that this bacterium is capable of producing a toxic substance called colibactin that damages the DNA of bowel cells making them cancerous.
As a society, we too often don’t recognize the importance of prevention. Instead, we continually regret harm after it befalls us. We need to change our mindsets and become proactive.
Research evidence suggests that sedentary lifestyles, excessive social media use, lack of physical activity, and Western diets are all significant risk factors for colon cancer in young adults. It is crucial to adopt healthy lifestyle habits such as regular physical activity and a balanced diet to reduce the risk of developing this disease. Early detection through regular screening is also essential for improving outcomes and increasing survival rates.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He is an advocate for our elderly and available to answer questions. His contact information is VisitingAngels.com/comtns and 970-328-5526.