Colon cancer is a malignancy that originates in an individual’s large intestine or colon. Colon cancer can develop in an individual of any age but is more common in older adults.
Symptoms of colon cancer include changes in stool consistency, frequent diarrhea, frequent constipation, blood in the stool, cramping, abdominal discomfort and excessive gas, the sensation of incomplete bowel emptying, weight loss, fatigue, and weakness.
Most individuals who do not have numerous risk factors begin getting screened for colon cancer when they reach the fifth decade of life.
Colon cancer is diagnosed with the use of blood tests, CT scans, and a procedure called a colonoscopy. Should the physician discover any areas that look suspicious during a colonoscopy, they can biopsy the suspicious tissue during the procedure.
Treatment for colon cancer includes surgery to remove the malignancy if possible, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.
Causes and Risk Factors of Colon Cancer
Get familiar with causes and risk factors linked to colon cancer now.
1. Family History of Colon Cancer
Individuals who have a family history of colon cancer are more likely to develop this type of malignancy in their colon. Malignancy anywhere in the body is caused by a change or mutation in cellular DNA that causes the cells to grow rapidly, multiply excessively, and live longer than they should.
Some of the mutations that cause cancer can be inherited from an individual’s parents.
While this cause of colon cancer is relatively uncommon, specific inherited syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer can significantly increase an individual’s risk of developing colon cancer.
A patient’s chance of developing colon cancer is even higher when they have more than one blood family member who has been affected by colon or rectal cancer at some point in their life.
Between five and ten percent of all cases of colon cancer are the result of an inherited genetic factor or syndrome. An individual who has a family history of polyp development in the colon or a condition that causes them is also at an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
2. History of Colon Polyps
An individual who has a history of colon polyps is at a higher risk of developing colon cancer than an individual who does not. A colon polyp is an abnormal tissue growth that occurs inside of the colon or large intestine.
Polyps come in different shapes and sizes. The most common kind of polyp known to increase an individual’s risk of developing colon cancer is called an adenomatous polyp.
These types of polyps are often associated with mutations in the DNA of cells that make up the large intestine lining. This malfunction means the larger an adenomatous polyp grows, the more likely it is to incur a DNA mutation that causes the development of colon cancer.
Colon polyps can only be found with a procedure referred to as a colonoscopy. Most adenomatous polyps do not produce any symptoms, so most individuals are unaware they have them until they undergo a routine colonoscopy.
Colon polyps are removed as soon as they are found to prevent the development of colon cancer.
3. Sedentary Lifestyle
A sedentary lifestyle can cause an individual to have a higher risk of developing colon cancer than one who has a more active lifestyle. A sedentary lifestyle is best defined as a type of lifestyle will very little or even no physical activity.
The exact correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and colon cancer is not clear, but it is thought to be associated with the development of a metabolic disorder, inflammation, and adiposity accumulation.
Other factors can compound the sedentary lifestyle risk factor for colon cancer, such as insulin resistance, altered secretion of adipokines, and increased levels of sex hormones.
A sedentary lifestyle also slows down an individual’s metabolism and slows the movement of food through their gastrointestinal tract.
Slowed digestive motility is known to produce chronic inflammation and intestinal tissue damage, which can increase an individual’s risk of developing colon cancer.
A common increased risk factor that implicates a good number of individuals is diabetes, a disease characterized by persistent high blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. An increased risk of colon cancer is associated with type 2 diabetes more than it is with type 1 diabetes.
The body produces insulin, but the tissues do not respond to it appropriately in an individual with type 2 diabetes. Individuals with type 2 diabetes often develop chronic compensatory hyperinsulinemia.
This type of diabetes has a high correlation with a high-calorie diet, excess abdominal fat, and increased body weight. Carcinogenesis in type 2 diabetes patients is exacerbated by the interactions of insulin-like growth factor-1.
The interaction of the insulin hormone and insulin-like growth factor-1 receptors can prolong cell survival and stimulate the proliferation of cells.
Both of these characteristics are important for the formation of malignancy in a patient’s tissues. Diabetes also promotes inflammation in the body through several mechanisms, which compounds the risk of developing colon cancer.
5. Low-Fiber and High-Fat Diet
An individual who primarily lives on a low fiber and high-fat diet is at a higher risk of developing colon cancer than someone who consumes a healthier diet. Fiber is a dietary nutrient known to be essential for optimal colon health.
Fibers help the food move through the gastrointestinal tract faster because it adds bulk to the stools. Fiber is also effective at helping to clean the colon of waste product buildup and bacteria that can cause inflammation.
Finally, fiber assists with keeping the bowel movements regular, soft, and healthy. However, all these benefits of fiber are significantly reduced when a low-fiber diet is continuously consumed. A high-fat diet can help promote the carcinogenesis and growth of malignant cells.
Fats are the hardest type of nutrient for the gastrointestinal tract to digest and longer than other nutrients to digest.
When an individual consumes a diet full of fatty foods, their liver, pancreas, stomach, and intestines may have trouble producing enough bile acids to metabolize and digest it all properly.
This mechanism can cause an imbalance in the intestinal bile acids, which consequently triggers a hormonal response. This hormonal response can promote the growth and proliferation of precancerous and cancerous cells, leading to colon cancer.