Health Matters: Understanding The Severity Of Colorectal Cancer

SANTA MONICA, CA – MARCH 03: Actor Chadwick Boseman attends the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards on March 3, 2018 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, which shines the light on the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States. According to The American Cancer Society, 106,590 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed in 2024. Recently, there has been a concerning increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer among individuals below the age of 50 over the last few decades. Chadwick Boseman, known for his leading role in the hit movie Black Panther, passed away from the cancer at age 43, which left our community and beyond shocked and confused. Earlier this month, his widow, Taylor Simone Ledward-Boseman, spoke at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts, where she urged people to attend screenings (available to people in the United States from the age of 45 years), stating that the cancer was “treatable when detected early.”

The American Cancer Society states that in 2020, about 12% of colorectal cancers will be diagnosed in people under the age of 50 in the United States. Additionally, there’s a higher risk of colorectal cancer in Black Americans, as it disproportionately affects the Black community, where the rates are the highest of any racial/ethnic group in the United States. Unfortunately, Black Americans are about 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other groups.

But why? The reasons are layered and complex, as the lack of healthcare access, brought on by socioeconomic status, is a factor. “Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the country,” said Durado Brooks, M.D. vice president of prevention and early detection at the American Cancer Society. “This disease is ravaging the Black community, and it is as important as ever that everyone has access to and is receiving the recommended screenings. Even during the coronavirus pandemic, screening tests remain available to prevent or find the disease at an early, more treatable stage.”

The American Cancer Society now recommends that people at average risk of colorectal cancer start regular screening at age 45. Colonoscopies are the most popular screening exam for colon cancer. However, there are several tests available. We spoke with Dr. John Whyte, Chief Medical Officer of WebMD, to discuss  the several screening tools used to find polyps or colorectal cancer, how frequently one should get each type of test, and which could be right depending on risk, family history, and medical history, including:  

  • Stool Tests
  • Flexible Sigmoidoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • CT Colonography (Virtual Colonoscopy)

ESSENCE: What’s the cause of colon cancer?

 Dr. John Whyte: Colon cancer, like other cancers, arises from the uncontrolled growth and division of cells in the colon or rectum. The exact cause is complex and multifactorial, involving genetic mutations (only about 20 percent), lifestyle factors (such as diet and physical activity, poor sleep), environmental exposures, and chronic inflammation. However, most cases of colon cancer begin as small, benign clumps of cells called polyps, which, over time, can become cancerous.

The importance of sleep and how poor sleep can increase your cancer risk

Adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining overall health, including cancer prevention. Poor sleep or disrupted sleep-wake cycles can lead to hormonal imbalances, increased inflammation, and impaired immune function, all of which can potentially increase cancer risk. Studies suggest that people who have poor sleep patterns or work night shifts, disrupting their circadian rhythms, may have a higher risk of developing various types of cancer.  Think about it – the first thing you do when you don’t feel well is sleep. Instinctively, you know it helps with immune function.

What are the benefits of exercise on cancer risk? 

Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of several types of cancer, including colon cancer. Exercise helps regulate hormone levels, decreases insulin resistance, and reduces inflammation, which may all contribute to lowered cancer risk. It also may change how genes are expressed, reducing cell errors. Furthermore, physical activity can help maintain a healthy weight, which is important because obesity is a known risk factor for colon cancer and many other cancers. Exercise is as close to a magic pill as we have.

How can brushing your teeth reduce your cancer risk?

Good oral hygiene and regular dental care can potentially reduce the risk of colon cancer. Poor oral health has been linked to an increased risk of cancer, possibly due to chronic inflammation caused by gum disease (periodontitis). Some research suggests that specific bacteria in diseased gums can enter the bloodstream and contribute to inflammation and cancer risk elsewhere in the body, including the colon. It’s an area where more research is needed.

What should you eat that can decrease your colon cancer risk? 

Diet plays a significant role in the risk of developing colon cancer. Diets high in red and processed meats have been associated with an increased risk of colon cancer. Conversely, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can help reduce the risk. High consumption of alcohol (more than two drinks a day) and obesity are also known risk factors for colon cancer. Dietary factors that promote inflammation and affect gut health, such as low fiber intake, can additionally influence the risk. One of the most significant changes in diet is for people to eat more fiber.

Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Shopping cart