According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed both in men and women in the United States. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer (CRC) is about 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women. Almost all colon cancers start in the lining of the colon or rectum as a benign poly that slowly develops into cancer.
The many risk factors include: over age 50, although we are seeing younger people diagnosed (Chadwick Boseman died at age 43 from CRC), African American or eastern European descent, high fat, low fiber diet and eating alot of red or processed meats, having inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or family history. Certain inherited diseases can also increase the risk of developing colon cancer such as Lynch Syndrome.
By far this cancer is the most preventable as well as the most curable with early screening.
Chemoprevention, which is the use of a medication, vitamin or supplement used to prevent cancer from occurring, is very effective in preventing colorectal cancer due to its long latency period. In addition to ongoing screening, this review of 80 systematic reviews and meta-analyses in average risk people will show you what you can do to lower your risk of this very preventable cancer.
Agents that protect against CRC include aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories drugs, folate, magnesium, fiber, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, and soy. Exercise and preventing constipation are also very important!
Agents that had no effect on CRC risk are Vitamin C, Vitamin E, antioxidants, beta-carotene, selenium, tea, garlic, allium and Vitamin D with or without calcium.
Meat and alcohol were associated with an excess risk of colorectal cancer.
What you eat in addition to supplementation can play an important role in preventing CRC. Certain medications such as aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs come with certain side effects, so please discuss the use of these with your practitioner before taking them on a regular basis.
References: Chapeelle N et al. Recent advances in clinical practice: Colorectal cancer chemoprevention in the average- risk population. Gut 2020 Sept 28; [e-pub]. (https://doi.org/10.1136/gutjnl-2020-320990)