fruit imageNobody wants to live with colon cancer – the third most common cancer affecting both men and women and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. But with the kind of diet most of us are used to, avoiding it can really be quite a challenge.

According to the data collected by the American Cancer Society, there are more than 101,000 new cases of colon cancer and about 40,000 new cases of rectal cases in the United States for the year 2011 alone. And while the death rates have been significantly decreasing for the past two decades, the number of affected individuals is still rather quite high. As such, we all need to make some drastic lifestyle changes if we want to enjoy a life free from cancer.

Understanding Colon Cancer

To increase your chances of preventing the disease from ruining your health, it is important for you to know some basic information regarding colon cancer. You need to know the factors that may increase your risk of developing the disease, the symptoms that may indicate its presence and what you should do to avoid it.

Colon Cancer Risk Factors

Among the most common risk factors associated with the disease are:

  • Age. Colon cancer mainly affects older people, especially those over 50. It may affect younger people but such cases are extremely rare.
  • Unhealthy lifestyle. Eating a predominantly Western diet that is high in fat and red meat intake and low in fiber can increase your risk of colon cancer. Lack of physical activity, smoking and alcohol can likewise increase your risk of developing the disease later in life.
  • Presence of inflammatory bowel disease. If you have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or any chronic inflammatory conditions affecting your colon, you are likely to have colon cancer in the future.
  • Personal or family history of colon polyps and colon cancer. If you or any of your immediate and/or distant family members have a history of colon polyps, colon cancer or any other form of cancer, the likelihood that you’ll develop colon cancer in the future can be quite high. Likewise, people who inherited genetic mutations such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) are also at a greater risk of being affected with colon cancer.
  • Certain medical conditions. Obesity and type 2 diabetes can significantly increase your susceptibility to the disease.
  • Race. For some reasons, African-Americans tend to be more susceptible to this medical condition.

The Symptoms

You need to know that colon cancer has no noticeable symptoms during its early stages. However, you may start noticing the following symptoms when the condition reaches the more advanced stages:

  • Change in your regular bowel habits. You may suddenly feel constipated or experience diarrhea quite often. You may likewise observe a significant change in the consistency of your stool or feel that your bowels are not being totally emptied.
  • Abdominal discomfort. You may often suffer from gas, abdominal cramps and pain.
  • Rectal bleeding. If you start noticing blood in your stool, don’t postpone your doctor’s appointment any longer.
  • Unexplained fatigue and weight loss.

Recent Studies on the Effect of Diet on Colon Cancer

A lot of studies indicate that changing a person’s diet can do a lot in preventing colon cancer. According to a study conducted in Western Australia and published in the October 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, colon cancer risk can be significantly reduced by consuming a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, especially those that have brightly colored skins.

On the other hand, a study published in Gut – an International Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in 2000 provided solid evidence that olive oil, another essential component of the Mediterranean diet, provides a protective effect against the production of cancer cells in rats’ colons. Likewise, olive oil has been proven to exert a significant anti-cancer effect on the gastrointestinal tract of humans. The study was published in the May/June 2009 issue of Toxicology and Industrial Health Journal.

However, these studies are just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. A lot of credible research has been made and the results are basically the same – the Mediterranean diet can do a lot of good for your general well-being. So now, are you ready to make a change for the better? You will be, once you start to realize how good the Mediterranean diet can actually be!

Here’s to your increased chances of fighting colon cancer,

Ray Baker