Educational Articles

Colon Cancer: Prevention

Preventing Colon Cancer

The colon is another name for the large intestine or large bowel. It begins where the small intestine ends, near the appendix in the right lower portion of the abdomen. The colon extends in a wide loop, up the right side of the abdomen to the liver, and across to the left side of the abdomen where it turns down connecting finally to the rectum.
Colon Polyp and Colon Cancer
Colon polyp is a growth that occurs in the inner lining of the colon. They are usually shaped like mushrooms  but can vary in size from a tiny pea to larger than a plum. While colon polyps start out as benign tumors, certain types of polyps (called an adenoma or adenomatous polyp) may grow to become colon cancer. The risk is greater as the polyp gets larger. Adenomatous polyps can be removed before they become cancerous with a procedure called colonoscopy
. Under light sedation, a flexible tube is inserted into the colon, allowing the physician to see the inside of the colon while removing polyps (polypectomy ).  
 Colon Polyp           
                Colon Polyp
Causes and Risks
The exact cause(s) of colon polyp and colon cancer is unknown. It appears that heredity plays a key role. Certain genes seem to prevent colon cancer from developing. Some people may lose these protective genes. A person whose parents, brothers or sisters have colon cancer or polyps is at significantly higher risk of developing it. There is also lesser risk, if second-degree relatives including uncles, aunts or grandparents have had the disease. Therefore, people with a family history of polyps and colon cancer should be evaluated by early on and regularly.
Vegetables, Fruits and Fiber
The red, yellow, orange and green colored fruits and vegetables such as peppers, oranges, strawberries, and carrots are particularly rich in a complex mixture of substances called antioxidants. The vegetables (cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli) have very high levels of natural cancer fighting chemicals. Brussels sprouts and broccoli are exceeding high in these. There is increasing medical data that people who eat these foods plus generous amounts of unprocessed grains have less colon cancer. There is no medical evidence that taking antioxidant supplements such as vitamin C and E and betacarotene is helpful.
Meats and saturated fats
Meat contains saturated fat as do many prepared products such as ice cream and especially non-animal foods such as pastries, sauces, etc. Always read the food labels to see how much saturated fat a food contains. These fats are broken down by the body's digestive juices and bile. Some of these byproducts are known to cause cancer in laboratory animals. There is some evidence that meat rich diets may increase the risk of breast cancer and possibly colon cancer. The risk may depend on how the meat is prepared. Nevertheless, a reduced meat and saturated fat diet probably contributes to colon health to some extent.

Calcium is one of the most common minerals in the body. It is necessary for bone strength and for many of the body's important chemical processes. For example, it is needed in regulating the growth of cells. Animal studies have found that a lack of calcium leads to excessive cell growth in the colon. It is not clear if calcium has a cancer preventive benefit for humans. Still, since it is important to the body in so many other ways, everyone should get enough calcium in their diet. All adults should have 1000 mg per day. After menopause, females have a greater risk of osteoporosis (loss of calcium causing bones to weaken), and they should have 1500 mg of calcium a day.

Aspirin and NSAID--Some medical studies show that the incidence of cancer of the colon may be less in those people who take aspirin or other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) regularly. It is known that a substance called prostaglandin (a hormone-like substance produced by the body) may promote excessive or abnormal cell growth in the intestine. Aspirin and NSAIDs appears to interfere with prostaglandin which may account for a possible role in preventing colon cancer.
Aspirin or NSAIDs can cause stomach ulcers, serious bleeding or hemorrhagic strokes, so it should only be taken with the approval of a physician.
Other Factors--
Cigarette Smoking - long-term smokers had more colon cancer than non-smokers
Leisure Time Activities - those nurses who were more active in their daily lives had fewer cancers



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