Eating healthy has a whole new meaning when it can make the difference between living cancer-free or not. Research has confirmed a connection between eating high-fat foods and feeding colorectal cancer cells. Turns out your waistline isn’t the only thing that will benefit from some dietary changes; your colon and rectum will also thank you.
Colorectal cancer is cancer that forms in the colon or rectum. They are often combined because of the similarities. The wall of the colon and rectum are both made up of many layers, and colorectal cancer typically begins as a polyp in the inner most layer. A polyp is a buildup of abnormal tissue and is, in itself, not cancerous. Over time the polyp can become cancerous and spread to the other layers of the wall. Once cancer is in the wall, there is a risk of it entering the blood vessels or lymph vessels and traveling throughout the body.
Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the United States, and statistically 1 in 21 men and 1 in 23 women will get colorectal cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that found early, colon cancer is curable, and due to increased screening the likelihood of death from colorectal cancer, for most of us, has decreased. Today, more than 1 million people in the United States are survivors of colorectal cancer.
What You Eat Matters
A recent study by the Cleveland Clinic found that eating a high-fat diet leads to a growth of cancerous cells in the colon and rectum. In fact, 80% of colorectal cancer is associated with poor diet. By studying rats with colorectal cancer, researchers were able to show an increase in the number of cancer stem cells—a malignant and aggressive type of cell—in rats who were fed a diet high in fat. High fat had the same effect on rats whether they were obesity-prone or not. This finding is important both for people who are trying to prevent colorectal cancer, but also for people who are currently suffering from it. Research showed that being able to prevent or even decrease growth of cancer stem cells could help people even in late stages of the disease.
An Ounce of Prevention
The adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is true for colorectal cancer. Prevention is not only the best option, it is possible! Screenings can go a long way toward preventing colorectal cancer from spreading or developing in the first place. Polyps found in the colon or rectum typically take from 10-15 years to become cancerous, so if they are detected and removed early, cancer can be prevented. The recommendation is that every person has regular screenings starting at age 50, but family medical history and genetics play such a strong role in colorectal cancer that some people should be screened earlier. Talk to your doctor to see when you should get screened.
As we have already discussed, there is a very strong link between diet and the onset and spread of colorectal cancer. Changing your dietary habits now will help to prevent potential colorectal cancer in the future. Because high-fat diet plays such a role, reducing the amount of high-fat foods is important. High-fat foods include things like: fatty cuts of beef, pork and lamb, processed meats, dark poultry meat and skin, fatty dairy products like cream, whole milk, and sour cream, certain oils and lard. Being overweight or obese has been associated with several types of cancer, including colorectal, so adding in a regular exercise routine will also help to drop or keep off those extra pounds. Whether you are a cancer survivor or trying to take steps now to prevent the onset of cancer completely, these dietary changes will benefit you.
If you are wondering about your risks for colorectal cancer and want to know more about prevention or treatment, Dr. Sameer Islam can help. Contact Dr. Islam today for an appointment.