***image1***With 140,000 new cases each year, colorectal cancer is second only to lung cancer.
The disease affects everyone seemingly on an equal basis – African-Americans, caucasians, Latinos, Asians, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t even matter if the patient is over or underweight.
“There is a theory suggesting that carcinogens in cooked meats are to blame,” said Army Lt. Col. Ronald Place. “Carcinogens bump against the rectal wall and over time cause a cancer to appear.”
It would seem that a person with regular bowels would have a better chance to avoid the disease, since carcinogens would be moving through instead of piling up and irritating the wall. That, however, is not the case.
“It doesn’t matter if you have three bowel movements a day or three a week,” he said. “It has no effect on colorectal cancer. We don’t know why that’s the case.”
What is known is that people living in lesser developed countries have a miniscule rate of colorectal cancer when compared with western people, he said.
People in third-world regions tend not to have as much access to grills full of meats and refined, processed foods, which is a good thing for the colon.
They also may tend to get more exercise.
Limiting meat intake and eating a low-fat diet is a good start. Foods high in folate, such as green, leafy vegetables help prevent the disease, as does eating 25-30 grams of fiber daily. Beans, nuts, fruits and whole grain products are good ways to get needed fiber.
Signs that a problem may be looming include persistent intestinal complaints like constipation, diarrhea, unexplained weight loss or blood in the stool. Any of these symptoms are cause to see a doctor for a thorough examination. Catching the disease in its early stage makes treatment much easier.
Most people don’t have this problem until age 50. People 50 and older should have a regular screening colonoscopy, which reveals the presence of polyps and early cancers.
“If we catch the disease while it is still in the polyp stage, then we simply remove them before they become a problem,” he said.
“If it’s caught later, then the cancer must be cut out, with little effect on the bowels.”
Each year 56,000 deaths are attributed to this disease.
To learn more, visit the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons Web site at www.fascrs.org.