Colon Cancer - Evidence Based Cause & Prevention

The colon is longest muscular part of the large intestine. It is a tube shaped organ and measuring about 4 feet long. It extends from the end of the small intestine till anus. Colon performs three main functions in human body:

•           It helps in absorption of nutrients from the food.
•           It helps to increase the concentration of waste material by absorbing water and other electrolytes.
•           It helps in storing and controlling the evacuation of the waste material.

Absorption of water and electrolytes take place on the right side of the colon whereas storage and elimination of wastes takes place on the left side.

When cell growth becomes out of control, it results in the cancer. When this uncontrolled growth of cells starts in the large intestine, it gives rise to colon cancer. Most colon cancers begin from small non-cancerous cell growths. When left untreated, these may turn into malignant colon cancers. Colon cancers are adenomatous that develop from the polyps lining the inner walls of the colon. Cancers become dangerous when cancer cells grow in an unbridled manner. They invade the healthy cells, tissues and organs that are present near the cancerous cells and produce many complications.
Sometimes, these cancers are called as colorectal cancers because rectum may also get involved.

Causes of colon cancer
There is an uncontrolled division of cells if mutations to DNA occur. Due to mutations, damage to the genes takes place. There are four different types of genes that control the division of cells. First is oncogenes which order the cells for division, tumour suppressor genes order the cells not to divide, suicide genes tell the cells to destroy themselves if something wrong happens and lastly DNA repair genes tell the cells to repair the damaged DNA. Cancer occurs when genes fail to repair the damaged DNA and cells fail to commit suicide when something wrong happens to their structure. Mutations that inhibit the functions of oncogene and tumour suppressor gene also results in cancer.

Inheritance of cancer
Colon cancer may result from inheritance. Individuals who have family disposition of colon cancer are at greater risk of developing colon cancer. It is said that it runs in family members. It is found that gene mutations or gene faults may result in colon cancer.

Smoking is closely related to the cancer of colon. Researchers say that smoking increases the risk of colon cancer mainly in women. According to the new study, published April 30 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, women who smoke are at higher risk for colon cancer as compared to women who never smoked. A lead researcher, Dr. Inger Gram, a professor in the department of community medicine at the University of Tromso in Norwa said that women who smoke ten or more cigarettes in a day are at higher risks for colon cancer.

International Agency for Research on Cancer of the World Health Organization has recently found that colon cancer is related to smoking. On the basis of research, the WHO says that smoking increases the risk of colon cancer. Dr. Stephanie Bernik, an expert and chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, believe that diet, alcohol and sedentary life also play a role in causing colon cancer in women.

Processed foods
Dutch researchers have found that eating unhealthy snack foods can increase the risk of colon cancer in the people with genetic disposition. They have published their work in the journal, Cancer. This study mainly focused on the individuals suffering from a medical condition called as Lynch syndrome, which is an inherited syndrome caused by an inherited mutations in DNA mismatch repair genes and characterized by the development of colon cancer at an early age. Lead study author Dr. Akke Botma commented "We saw that Lynch syndrome patients who had an eating pattern with higher intakes of snack foods, like fast-food snacks, chips or fried snacks, were twice as likely to develop these polyps as Lynch syndrome patients having a pattern with lower intakes of snack foods."

Carbohydrate diet
Studies have concluded that people who eat high carbohydrate diet are more prone to suffer from colon cancer. Studies done in the past show that risk of colon cancer can be reduced by changing dietary habits. Low glycemic diet helps in reducing the risk of colon cancer. Researchers from the Dana Faber Cancer Institute have found that the people suffering from colon cancer who eat diet heavy in complex sugars and carbohydrate experience recurrence of disease than the patients who avoid starchy foods in their diet. Medical researchers in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute examined how diet can affect the chances that the disease will recur. They found that eating a high-carbohydrate diet is a potential hazard for those already suffering from colon cancer. Study author, Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt commented "Our study certainly supports the idea that diet can impact the progression of colon cancer, and that patients and their doctors should consider this when making post-treatment plans."

Dr. Meyerhardt concluded "We theorize that factors including a high glycemic load may stimulate the body's production of insulin... that, in turn, may increase the proliferation of cells and prevent the natural cell-death process in cancer cells that have metastasized from their original site."

Obesity and cancer
Obesity is an important risk factor for developing colon cancer. Diabetes is another risk factor associated with the development of colon cancer. Diabetic people are more prone to infections and they have lower capacity to metabolize the sugar properly. If blood glucose level rises, risk for colon cancer increases.

Jenifer Fenton, an MSU food science and human nutrition researcher with the Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station, discovered the new link between obesity and colon cancer by examining tissue hormones. She and her research team, which included MSU/MAES physiologist Julia Busik and biologist Fay Hansen-Smith of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, examined a hormone called leptin which is present in fat tissue. It is found that obese individuals have high levels of leptin. Dr. Fenton's study, published in the journal Carcinogenesis is the first to demonstrate that leptin, when at high levels, induces precancerous colon cells to produce more of a growth factor. This growth factor, in turn, can increase blood supply to early malignant cells -- and that promotes the growth and spread of cancerous tumors.

Symptoms of colon cancer
Depending upon the location of the cancer, symptoms may vary. People with colon cancer may not experience any symptoms in the early stage. However, when the cancer becomes malignant, it may present the following symptoms:
•           Alternate Diarrhea or constipation
•           Bleeding from the rectum or blood in the stools
•           Fatigue, restlessness, cramps in the abdomen
•           Pain during defeacation
•           Continual urge for defeacation
•           Weight loss
•           Irritable bowel syndrome
•           Anemia

If cancer metastasizes to other parts of the body, additional symptoms may arise due to the affected area. Symptoms depend upon the organ where the cancer cells have metastasized. Mostly liver gets affected.

People who are prone to develop cancer should go for regular screening after the age of 50 years. It is the best way to prevent cancer or detect at an early stage. Generally, it is recommended that keeping a healthy weight, doing regular exercise, eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grains and decreasing the amount of sugar and fats help in preventing the development of colon cancer. People who smoke or drink alcohol are recommended to quit smoking and avoid too much alcohol drinking.

Researchers publishing in the Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology (CJPP) have found that a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can lower the risk of developing precancerous colon cancer lesions by up to 84%. Vitamins and minerals are known to enhance the immune system. The main function of vitamins and minerals is to protect our body from foreign substances and boost up our immune system to fight against them.

Researchers have found that eating more fruits and vegetables dramatically helped in reducing the risk of colon cancer.  The result of a new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association provides details on how eating specific fruit and vegetable lowers the incidence of many types of colon cancer. Nutrition scientists from Australia provide important facts to confirm the importance of eating a colorful selection of fruits and vegetables to lower colon cancer risk.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found that five diet and lifestyle modifications could lower the risk of developing colon cancer.  Doing regular exercise and remaining free from stress greatly helps in preventing the risk of developing cancer. It is found that people who remain under constant stress are more likely to develop cancer at an early stage. When stress is combined with other risk factors such as smoking and drinking alcohol, then the risk of developing colon cancer increases many fold.

Selenium is believed to be an effective naturally occurring weapon to prevent cancer. Many people do not get adequate amount of selenium in their diet and they suffer from colon cancer. The recommended dosage for selenium is 200 micrograms per day. Today, research shows that selenium along with vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene can block the reactions in the body that create free radicals which cause degenerative changes in the cells leading to cancer.

Selenium also helps stop damaged DNA molecules from reproducing. Selenium is an important mineral that acts to prevent proliferation of cancer cells. "It contributes towards the death of cancerous and pre-cancer cells. Their death appears to occur before they replicate, thus helping stop cancer before it gets started," says Dr. James Howenstine in A Physician's Guide to Natural Health Products That Work.

Selenium has also been shown to help in slowing the progression of cancer in people who already suffer from colon cancer. According to the Life Extension Foundation, the use of selenium during chemotherapy in combination with vitamin A and vitamin E can reduce the toxicity of chemotherapy drugs. Patrick Quillin says in Beating Cancer with Nutrition that the mineral also helps "enhance the effectiveness of chemo, radiation, and hyperthermia while minimizing damage to the patient's normal cells; thus making therapy more of a 'selective toxin.'

A 1996 study by Dr. Larry Clark of the University of Arizona showed just how effective selenium can be in protecting against cancer. Jean Carper, in Miracle Cures, called Dr. Clark's findings an "unprecedented cancer intervention study" that "bumped up the respectability of using supplements against cancer several notches."

Nature gives us many tools to fight against the colon cancer effectively. We have to treat or address the underlying cause of the problem to prevent the recurrence of signs and symptoms. It is important to cleanse your body to eliminate toxins and other chemicals from your body. When foreign substances accumulate in our body, they weaken our immune system and become the leading cause of illness. If you cleanse your body from the harmful toxins you can build up a strong immune system to effectively fight against the foreign substances. Once cancer cells start rowing in your colon, it becomes very important to keep your body free from chemicals and toxic substances to prevent its metastasis to other parts of the body. You have to protect your liver because a great cancer pioneer Max Gerson observed, cancer cannot develop unless the liver is impaired to begin with.

In the Berkson Clinical Study, three women who were facing liver transplants or chemo with interferon (a horrendous treatment with very low success rates for hepatitis and cirrhosis), took milk thistle, alpha lipoic acid and selenium, modified their diets a bit and got some daily exercise and restored their liver functions to normal.

Conclusion: You can prevent colon cancer by modifying your diet and lifestyle habits.