The passing of the actor who played Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman, has raised the world’s awareness towards colorectal cancer. In spite of the diagnosis, Chadwick managed to pull off a stellar acting career, giving the world a fantastic Marvel movie. But it would be naive to think that colorectal cancer patients had it easy. Quite the contrary, it is extremely hard to cope with life as a colorectal cancer patient, as outlined by this article on Insider.
According to GLOBOCAN 2018, colorectal cancer takes up 14% of the total new cancer cases In Malaysia. Based on the Malaysia National Cancer Registry Report 2012-2016, colorectal cancer is the nation’s second most common cancer, registered a total of 15,515 cases for the period.
Colorectal cancer is a common and lethal cancer. These vignettes should give you a wake up call to start caring about colorectal cancer, if you haven’t already.
The risk of developing colorectal cancer is influenced by both environmental and genetic factors. You may be able to control some but not all factors.
Although the data are not entirely consistent, long-term consumption of red meat or processed meats appears to be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. This is consistent with the World Health Organization (WHO)’s announcement of listing processed meat as carcinogenic (cancer-causing) and red meat as possibly carcinogenic.
The IARC World Cancer Report 2020 estimated that for every 50 grams of processed meat consumed per day, the risk of colorectal cancer increases by approximately 16 percent, and for every 100 grams of red meat consumed per day, it increases by about 12 percent.
After considering various sources, many developed countries revised their recommendations of processed and red meat. For example, United Kingdom dietary guidelines endorse limiting the intake of both red and processed meat to 70 g per day.
Image credit: https://www.bbc.com/news/health-49877237
It is well-established that being obese may increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer, especially if such weight gain occurs between early adulthood and midlife. The study also found out that the amount of weight gain is proportional to the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Obesity also increases your risk of dying from colorectal cancer.
💡 Calculate your BMI here and see if you are obese. Consult a healthcare professional to identify the healthy and scientific approaches to lose weight. Getting rid of obesity not only reduces your risk of developing colorectal cancer, it also confers many other benefits, such as reducing risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.
Cigarette smoking significantly raises the risk of developing colorectal cancer as well as risk of dying from it. Smoking may also increase the risk of developing colon polyps, which itself is another risk factor for colorectal cancer.
Quitting smoking is a good place to start -- it also reduces your risk of other health conditions such as cardiovascular diseases. You may consult any pharmacist on ways to quit smoking using nicotine replacement therapy.
There is strong evidence suggesting that diabetes increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, as well as the risk of dying from it. One possible explanation to this phenomenon is that throughout the development of diabetes, the patient is in a state of hyperinsulinemia (body producing excess levels of insulin in response to high levels of blood sugar). Such states may promote the growth of colon cancer cells.
However, use of insulin to treat diabetes is not the same as hyperinsulinemia. Using insulin as a medical treatment does not increase risk of developing colorectal cancer. So if you are currently an insulin user, you should not be worried about developing colorectal cancer.
Drinking more than 1 unit of alcohol per day also increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, and the risk is further exacerbated by reduced folate absorption due to alcohol and reduced folate intake.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) strongly suggests that reducing alcohol consumption may reduce risk of developing major types of cancers, not just colorectal cancer. So you should probably cut down that social drinking and instead opt for something healthier.
Several specific genetic diseases are associated with extremely high risk of developing colorectal cancer, which include familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome (hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer [HNPCC]). However, these diseases are very rare -- they account for only 5% of the total colorectal cancer. A study found out that individuals who are diagnosed with colorectal cancer before 50 years old may be due to an inherited syndrome.
Individuals who developed colorectal cancer in the past are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer again in the future. The same goes to individuals who developed large (>1cm) adenomatous polyps with malignant tendencies, particularly if multiple polyps were detected.
Having family member(s) who developed colorectal cancer may also increase your chances of having the cancer. Having a single affected first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with colorectal cancer increases the risk approximately twofold. Risk is further increased if:
two first, or one first and one or more first or second-degree relatives on either side of the family have colon cancer, or
if a first-degree relative is diagnosed below 50 years of age.
Inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis significantly increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer in the future.
The American Cancer Society recommends the following to reduce risk of developing colorectal cancer:
Get screened for colorectal cancer, especially for individuals who aged 45 years and above
Eat lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains
Watch your weight
Don’t smoke or quit smoking if you do
Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.
Prevention is better than cure. Stay healthy and stay free from cancers!
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