Colorectal cancer:  cancer of the colon and/or rectum is the second leading cancer killer against men and women.  In 2005 greater than 145,000 Americans were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 56,000 died from the disease.  Most people with early cases of colon cancer have no symptoms and feel fine.  Most people who develop colon cancer have no family history of the disease, if there is a history; getting tested becomes even more important. Often colon cancer develops from benign polyps that if left undiagnosed and treated may lead to cancer.  Symptoms can include: rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea and weight loss.

The American College of Gastroenterology recommends a colorectal screening begin at the age of 50.  Screening can be as simple as a fecal occult blood test.  There are other screening tests available.  The American Cancer Society recommends the following screenings:  Yearly fecal occult blood test (FOBT) or fecal immunochemical test (FIT), Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, double-contrast barium enema every 5 years and a colonoscopy every 10 years. Consult with your medical doctor if you have a family history of colorectal cancer or if you are over 50 years old.

Maintaining a healthy colon is key to preventing colon cancer. The National Academy of Sciences has estimated that 60 percent of cancers found in women and 40 percent of cancers found in men are diet-related.  Diet of patients with colorectal cancer contain significantly more fat and sugars and far less fiber compared to diets of healthy individuals.  Fiber-depleted foods and high sugar intake may predispose individuals to develop colon cancer. In other words, avoid “junk” foods high in fat and sugar and low in dietary fiber.

Diet seems to play a very active role in prevention and consequent development of colorectal cancer. The Journal of Practical Nursing states, “As dietary fiber increases, the chances of developing colorectal cancer decrease”. The average American consumes an average of 15 grams of fiber daily.  The recommendation is between 25 to 50 grams of fiber per day.  A high fiber diet reduces the concentration of carcinogens (cancer causing agents) in the bowel and shortens the amount of time the colon membranes’ are exposed to the toxins.  There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber, found in oats, beans, barley and psyillium that get credit for lowering cholesterol. Insoluble fiber is found in legumes, grains, nuts and vegetables are the scrub brushes for the colon.  When it comes to normal bowel movements, food input should equal output.

Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oils, linseed and flaxseed protect against environmental carcinogens. Omega-6 fatty acids found in evening primrose oil, black currant oil and borage seed oil have similar protective qualities.

Calcium is proving to be beneficial towards minimizing colorectal cancer. In one study, families with histories of colon cancer were given 1.25 grams of calcium daily. After two to three months, the number of rapidly proliferating pre-malignant cells in the colon were significantly reduced and were almost equal to those in people at low risk. A similar study demonstrated that approximately two thousand men who had a low intake of calcium and vitamin D were 2.5 times more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Calcium needs an acidic environment in the stomach for absorption.  Alkalizing the stomach with antacids because of heartburn, GERD and reflux symptoms is preventing the absorption of calcium. Calcium needs a fatty acid, i.e., for absorption, another good reason for omega III fatty acid intake.

Selenium deficiency is associated with an increased cancer risk. As little as 250-300 micrograms (mcg) per day may help prevent many cancers. The average intake in the United States is approximately 100 mcg per day or less. Most U.S. soil is depleted of this mineral. The Great Lakes area is very deficient in this nutrient.  Serum selenium levels are now used to predict the risk of cancer. Adults with serum selenium levels of less than 45 mcg per liter had an excess cancer risk. Cancers of the colon, rectum, prostate, breast and ovary, as well as leukemia, are all inversely related to selenium consumption

Numerous independent studies have shown the importance of various vitamins and minerals in preventing cancer. The body needs balance of these nutrients to allow for healthy cell division.   The best solution is to take a good multivitamin/mineral supplement that is well balanced and well absorbed.

In Functional Medicine testing, a bacterial enzyme called Beta-Glucuronidase has been implicated as a metabolic marker for colon and breast cancer. Beta-Glucuronidase interferes with the body’s ability to rid itself of potential toxins therefore putting them back into the circulation. It also affects the liver’s ability to process hormones.

Research has correlated elevated levels of Beta-Glucuronidase activity as being a primary risk factor in the cause of colon cancer.

Excessive Beta-Glucuronidase can be reduced by using a supplement called Calcium-D-Glucurate. A number of cancer centers including M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center are researching Calcium-D-Glucurate for the prevention and treatment of cancer.  Calcium-D-Glucurate binds with toxic Beta-Glucuronidase and aids in its excretion.  Glucurate is found in cruciferous vegetables, (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), oranges, apples and grapefruit. You need to eat two pounds of broccoli per day to get an adequate amount of glucurate in the diet.   The average American does not consume enough vegetables or fruits to get the adequate amount of glucurate, making supplementation necessary.

Sedentary lifestyle has been associated with an increased risk of cancer. According to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an hour of daily, vigorous exercise or two hours of less strenuous activity decrease risks by 22-35 percent.

In an effort to reduce your risk of developing colon cancer avoid eating saturated fats, refined sugar, white flour and alcohol. Take a good multivitamin, Omega III fish oil, consider Calcium-D-Glucurate, especially if you are at high risk, and eat 5-9 serving of vegetables, including 1-2 fruits.  Make every effort to get adequate fiber in your diet and exercise daily. Lastly, don’t forget to get at least 8 glasses of water per day.

This is for information only and is not intended to prevent, diagnose or treat any condition.  For more information please contact the American Cancer Society at (248) 483-4333.