In 1999, the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England reported that colorectal cancer is one of the most common malignancies among adults and a rare condition in adolescence. 1
Almost two decades later things have changed dramatically and unexpectedly. Even though it is one of the most preventable cancers around, it still remains the third most common cancer in US men and women. While rates are falling in adults 50 years of age and older, rates have increased 51% in adults 20-34 years of age!
At this rate, the Journal of the American Medical Association estimates that these numbers are expected to increase by an alarming 90% in this age group by 2030.
True, cancer at any age is alarming and disappointing. In most of these younger cases, though, cancer diagnosis is usually delayed and discovered at a later, more advanced and aggressive stage.
How do we explain this disturbing trend?
The science is clear. Colon cancer is remarkably preventable. The small choices we make every 3-4 hours about what we eat, how much we eat, and how much we move around can cut the cases of colon cancer in HALF! In other words, about 67,000 colon cancer cases would never happen if all Americans would be more careful about their activity and dietary choices.
WHY I'M NOT SURPRISED
Should we be surprised that diet influences colon cancer risk? Not really. It makes sense, after all, since the colon is part of the GI tract - the organ system responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients from food.
While poor diets contribute to colon cancer, healthy diets contribute to a healthy colon! Whatever you do, though, don't focus on a single miracle food or nutrient to solve all your colon problems. Focus on a DIET filled with a wide VARIETY of colon-healthy foods. A healthy diet can help prevent or fight colon cancer in two ways:
THE DIRECT EFFECT - Yes, some individual vitamins, minerals, and plant chemicals called phytochemicals have a direct anti-cancer effect. They typically work best as a team (synergistically) to provide the strongest protection against cancer. Some lead to cancer cell death or self-destruction (called apoptosis), some shrink tumors, and some slow down tumor growth.
THE INDIRECT EFFECT - A healthy diet (let's not overlook physical activity, though) also helps protect against colon cancer through weight management. Excess body fat and body weight is associated with a higher cancer risk. A diet rich in lower calorie fruits and veggies and moderate-calorie whole grains and legumes helps you maintain a healthy weight.
Another indirect way to reduce your chances of colon cancer is to keep blood sugar and insulin levels low. Insulin resistance is associated with an increased risk of colon cancer, especially when combined with excessive body fat.
FIGHT THE TREND!
If you're in your bloom of youth, don't wait till it's too late. You shouldn't have to appreciate the value of health only after having lost it. Learn to live and eat healthy so that you don't have to learn how to live with colon cancer.
THE ANTI-COLON CANCER PLAN:
-> Get plenty of fiber!
I really love the way the American Institute of Cancer Research put it - there is CONVINCING evidence that foods containing dietary fiber DECREASE the risk for colon cancer. Dietary fiber found in top cancer-fighting foods (apples, tomatoes, dark leafy greens, winter squash, and whole grains) can work in multiple ways for you.
It can dilute harmful substances in the gut and speed out their passage by adding bulk.
It can support the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. In turn, these bacteria use fiber to produce short chain fatty acids that promote healthy colon cells and stimulate the self-destruction of abnormal cells. 7 It can help calm down inflammation.
Indirectly, fiber helps prevent cancer by giving you a more satisfying, full feeling after meals. This helps keep your weight in check. A healthy weight means lower risk of colon cancer.
You want about 25-35 grams of fiber each day. Thankfully, as long as you stick to the next point (as well as regularly consume legumes and whole grains, this'll be a no-brainer!
-> -> Start boosting the amount of fruits and veggies you eat daily. Be especially generous with vegetables!
Make it a goal to reach 8-10 each day! The more variety
the better. Research shows that different fruits and veggies help protect different parts of the colon.
For example, Brassica vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli) are linked with a decreased risk in proximal colon cancer. On the other hand, distal colon cancer is reduced significantly with intake of dark yellow veggies and apples.
->->-> What NOT to do - Again, going back to the specific, well-chosen wording of the AICR, there is CONVINCING (not just "probable") evidence that the following factor INCREASES the risk of colon cancer:
Processed meat consumption is a big no-no. We're talking about meat preserved by smoking, curing, salting, or use of chemical preservatives such as bacon, fried bacon, cold cuts, ham, corned beef, beef jerky, salami, bologna, lunchmeat, sausage, and hot dogs.
Combine obesity or excessive body fat and inactivity with regular consumption of processed meats and you've got a recipe for colon cancer. The World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer agency reported that each 50 gram portion (1.7 ounces) of processed meat daily increases colon cancer risk by 18%. What does "high" processed meat consumption look like? For men, it would be about 1 oz of processed meat eaten 5-6 days a week and for women 2-3 days a week.
No more hot dogs, bacon, and beef jerky!? What's left to eat? Plenty. There are plenty of lean sources (less than 20% of calories from fat) of high quality protein (that gives you a complete set of all 8 essential amino acids). In any meal, enjoy 4-6 ounces of white fish, tuna, salmon, white meat chicken, shellfish, wild organic red meat, or turkey. Other healthy protein sources include free range eggs, low-fat cottage cheese, or an Energyfirst shake with 2 scoops of whey protein powder.
Your personal cancer prevention regimen doesn't have to change overnight and it doesn't have to be complicated.
Make one small lifestyle change at a time and, in time, you'll see large benefits.
Today you can get rid of any traces of processed meat in your fridge. Tomorrow, refined carbs in your cupboard. Then, daily add 1-2 more vegetables and fruits to your diet.
You may add a daily high-potency multivitamin - such as EnergyOne multivitamin - that should have some of the most effective cancer-prevention antioxidants - vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium.
Going back to the direct versus indirect approach, remember than your daily EnergyFirst shake can indirectly help by keeping your weight in check and your blood sugar and insulin levels stable.
A perfect addition to your EnergyFirst shake is Greenergy superfood powder. It's an easy way to get at least 5-7 more servings of vegetables in your day, rich with antioxidants and ingredients that can help against cancer, especially green tea extract and grape seed extract.
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2. JAMA Surg. 2015;150(1):17-22.
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6. BMJ. 2011 Nov 10;343:d6617
8. J Am Diet Assoc. 2011 Oct;111(10):1479-90.
9. JAMA. 2005;293(2):172-182.