Activity & Exercise Articles Cancer Diet & Food Lifestyle

Colon Cancer Prevention

Preventing colon cancer is much better than trying to treat it. That’s our approach here at Digital Nomad Health: prevent anything that’s preventable to minimize disease and health spending. Colon cancer prevention mostly involves focusing on diet, but we also need to discuss colon polyps.

Colon Polyps

All colon cancers grow from smaller colon polyps, but most polyps won’t become cancerous. Either way, in Western Medicine, when we do a colonoscopy, we remove all polyps and send them for pathology.

These days, a colonoscopy isn’t terribly expensive—it costs around $1,500 to $2,500. Our patient resources section has more about cash-pay options for such tests.

The risk with this strategy is that a colonoscopy can cause intestinal perforation, which is a major issue. Removing a polyp isn’t risk-free either; sometimes, the bleeding can be extensive. But, the reality is that the risk remains low.

Alternative tests include a sigmoidoscopy or a stool test.

Doing the colonoscopy with a proper colon prep and without anesthesia may further help decrease the risk of perforation since, theoretically, you are awake and can tell the physician that they are pushing too hard with the colonoscope, hopefully preventing a perforation.

Somatic Mutation Leading to Malignancy

For the colon lining to turn into cancer, there has to be some change in the DNA of that cell. Because the colon lining turns over a lot, there is a lot of chance for random mutation, often referred to as somatic mutation.

How can we prevent these mutations? There are many theories and some reputable studies have linked certain lifestyle factors to increased risk of DNA damage:

  • obesity
  • sedentary lifestyle
  • animal product consumption
  • antibiotic usage

In a previous article we reviewed lifestyle factors that can help decrease the risk of colon cancer.

Obesity & Preventing Colon Cancer

Obesity is a complicated disease that involves hormones, our environment, stress, sleep, and genetics. Fortunately, just trying to address obesity has positive results on preventing colon cancer.

Some don’t like being told that they have obesity as a disease; that’s understandable. But to prevent colon cancer, it’s necessary to understand what aspects of obesity increase the risk of somatic mutations leading to cancer.

One factor might be inflammation, which often comes from the visceral fat we carry in our bodies. Fat around organs, especially the liver, seems to be problematic. Of course, there is no proof here; we just have theories and some research studies showing a strong association.

In fact, we can come up with as many studies showing that obesity may not be causal with cancer. This is why we always try to measure each patient’s risk individually, factor in all potential risk factors, and not obsess over just one risk.

Lack of Exercise

We know that being sedentary carries many health risks, including causing cancers. And since most jobs are rather sedentary these days, building some activity into our daily lives is important.

For those who work long hours, cutting out sleep to exercise isn’t a good idea. But taking a walking break at work or catching up on exercise on shorter days might be an important intervention.

Eating Animal Products

Is it all animal products that increase our risk of colon cancer, or are they products from animals raised in unsanitary conditions? Again, many studies out there prove one thing and others prove something else.

Fortunately, most longevity experts and oncologists agree that a mostly plant-based diet is the way to go. But, again, as we mentioned above, if you’re an avid carnivore, there are still plenty of things you can do to decrease your risk of colon cancer.

Whenever possible, choose sustainable animal sources and make sure that you are feeding your gut bacteria with the right nutrients. Fruits, vegetables, starches, and legumes are good nutrient sources to consider.

A fiber diet remains a good strategy for preventing colon cancer. The signal from these studies is strong enough that it’s worthwhile advice to heed.

Antibiotic Usage

Speaking of gut bacteria, they are necessary to help protect the lining of the intestine. We know that people who move to Western countries tend to get more antibiotic exposure from the water supply, animal products they eat, and going to the doctor.

Antibiotic exposure has been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. This association may be linked to several mechanisms, including alterations in the gut microbiota, disruption of immune function, promotion of pathogenic bacteria, changes in bile acid metabolism, and indirect effects on host physiology. However, further research is needed to fully understand the relationship between antibiotic use and colon cancer risk.

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