Colorectal cancer has been identified as the most common cancer in the gastrointestinal tract. A variety of factors influence the onset of the disease, including diet and genetic factors. Surgery is the best treatment modality, but the decision is not always easy to make.
As expected for the location of colon cancer, the symptoms are related to the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, they are often dismissed by patients who only take exams and talk about it when the disease is at a late stage.
In this article, we’re going through the most critical aspects of colon cancer. We will tell you how to suspect this type of cancer, how to prevent it, and how doctors treat the disease.
What Causes Colon Cancer?
Colorectal cancer is known as a multifactorial disease. This means that instead of one cause, it has multiple triggers. It could start with a genetic predisposition, but then it is triggered by environmental factors. One of the most critical environmental triggers is dietary exposure to inflammatory agents and other inflammatory conditions of the gastrointestinal tract.
Thus, we can’t point at a single cause. Instead, we may include several risk factors:
- APC gene mutations: This is one of the primary triggers of colorectal cancer. It is a gene mutation passed down in family lines. People who carry this defective gene suffer a disease known as familial adenomatous polyposis. It features the formation of polyps or finger-like growths on the inside of the gastrointestinal tract. One of them undergoes inflammation and turns into cancer. It usually happens when patients reach 40 years.
- Dietary factors: According to investigations, a diet higher in red meat and a low intake of fruits, vegetables, and dietary fiber increases the risk of colorectal cancer. More fiber in the diet reduces the risk, especially when it comes from whole grains. Studies also suggest that high consumption of sugar-free yogurt may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. It was also found that sweetened beverages with high-fructose corn syrup predispose to the development of colon cancer.
- Obesity and lifestyle factors: Colon cancer is more common in obese individuals, especially with additional unhealthy lifestyle factors such as heavy alcohol consumption and cigarette smoking. The risk reduces when patients stop smoking, but it is still higher than the average. Alcohol intake should be 30 grams a day or more to increase the risk of colorectal cancer. Another independent risk factor for colorectal cancer is diabetes, especially in obese and sedentary patients.
- Inflammatory bowel diseases: Patients with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and other chronic inflammatory conditions have a higher risk of colorectal malignancies.
Once triggered, colon cancer usually follows a similar history: there’s a transformation of benignant polyps into an adenoma (premalignant lesion), and then it progresses to invasive adenocarcinoma. Inflammation is essential for the conversion to take place.
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