SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. (KRON) – Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest cancer in the United States when men and women are combined.

“Black Panther” star actor Chadwick Boseman recently died of colon cancer at just 43, according to his representative.

Numerous studies have associated a person’s lifestyle to colon cancer, and death rates are 40% higher for African Americans than any other ethnic group.

Our health expert, Karen Owoc, is here to explain more about this disease and how to lower your risk of getting it.

Importance of Screenings and Colonoscopies / Chance of Survival

Colorectal cancer one of the most deadly of cancers, but it is one of the most PREVENTABLE.

The early detection lifesaving test, a colonoscopy, is invasive and often makes people very uncomfortable at the thought of one.

The Stigma Behind the Disease

There is a stigma attached to the colonoscopy and the part of the body it’s associated with as well as what the procedure entails.

Many people are embarrassed just saying the word “rectum”, but you should never DIE from embarrassment or fear of the procedure itself.

Researchers show that a higher percentage of African-Americans won’t schedule the test compared to other groups.

Get Screened

• Men and women are equally at risk for colon cancer.

• Get screened regularly. Starting at age 50, your physician can decide which test is right for you (e.g., sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, CT scan, barium enema).

• Over 75% of colon and rectal cancer cases had NO risk factors, so regular screening is essential. Risk factors include:

Why African-Americans Are at Greater Risk of Colon Cancer

African-Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer of any ethnic group in the United States.

• People of African American and Hispanic descent are often diagnosed at a later stage of the disease.

• Relatively little is known about the molecular mechanisms that associate more colorectal cancer deaths with African Americans than other ethnic groups.

Deeper Polyps: African-Americans are more likely to develop polyps deeper in the colon (on the right side) that a colonoscopy would reveal. The problem with the less invasive sigmoidoscopy exam (which uses a shorter tube, doesn’t need a full bowel prep like a colonoscopy) is that it only shows the left side of the colon).

Other lifestyle factors among African-Americans: Higher tobacco-related illness, more obesity, less physical activity, lower intake of vitamins C and E (possibly tied to colon cancer)

Fat, Bile, and Cancer

• Bile is a fluid made and released by the liver and stored in the gallbladder until it is needed. It assists with digestion by breaking down fats.

• Bile acids stimulate the growth of bacteria, which convert the primary bile acids into secondary bile acids.

• Bile acids, particularly secondary bile acids, have long been suspected as being cancer-causing.

• Eating more animal fat means more fat and bile acids in the colon.

Bile Circulates from Colon to Breast

Secondary bile acids can get absorbed into the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. This could also explain why a high saturated fat diet is also linked to breast cancer.

Meat vs Plant-Based Diet and Associated Cancer Risk

• A study found that African Americans ate more about 2X the protein (94 gm/day vs 58 gm/day), about 3X the fat (114 gm/day vs 38 gm/day), meat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than Native Africans.

• Compared to African Americans, Native Americans produced a fraction of the secondary bile acids.

• It has long been known that people who follow a plant-based diet have less bile in their stools, so their capacity to form carcinogens in the colon is low. They produce about 70% less of the secondary bile acids linked to cancer compared to meat-eaters.

Sources of Animal Fat (Saturated Fat)

A high intake of saturated fat is associated with high levels of bile, which is usually evident in colon cancer patients

  • Meat – e.g., fatty cuts of beef, pork, lamb
  • Processed / deli meats – salami, sausages, chicken skin
  • Lard (pig fat) — bacon, baked beans or split pea soup (made with bacon or ham hock), shortening
  • Whole fat dairy (cheese, butter), baked goods

Bile Acids Increase Damaging Free Radicals

Increased bile acids increased production of free radicals. Free radicals damage DNA and the ability for cells to repair themselves.

Immediate Dramatic Change After Switching to Plants

• In a 12-DAY study, subjects ate a diet rich in fat (50% fat) and meat and poor in dietary fiber. After one week they were switched to a low fat, fiber-rich diet. Hydroxyl radicals* dropped 13-fold.

*Hydroxyl radicals are one of the most destructive free radicals, which may increase colon cancer risk.

• After just ONE WEEK on a plant-based diet, the growth of toxic and carcinogenic bacteria was reduced by 50%.

• After ONE MONTH, presence of carcinogenic gut bacteria was reduced by 50%.

Family and Medical History

• Two to three times more likely to develop the disease in people with a parent, sibling, or child with colorectal cancer compared to those with no family history.

• Three to six times the risk of the general population when the relative was diagnosed at a young age or if there is more than one affected relative that of the general population.

• About 20% of all colorectal cancer patients have a close relative who was diagnosed with the disease.

• Higher risk if you have a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease and cancers such as ovarian, breast, and endometrial.

Reduce Colon Cancer Risk Factors [DEMO]

• Eliminate or limit animal fat. (Limit meat to 3 oz. per week or less. Eat less butter, cheese, ice cream, baked goods.)

• Eat more plant-based foods. Emphasize plant sources, specifically whole grains, nuts, beans and 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables.

• Several studies suggest diet increases risk of both colon and rectal cancer (high consumption of red and/or processed meat and very low fruit and vegetable intake).

• Eat folate-rich foods, e.g., kale, Swiss chard, other dark green leafy vegetables.

• Limit alcohol consumption to one drink per day. Individuals who have a lifetime average of two to four alcoholic drinks per day have a 23% higher risk of colorectal cancer than those who consume less than one drink per day.

• Maintain a healthy weight.

• Adopt a physically active lifestyle (moderate-intensity exercise, e.g., walking, gardening, stair climbing) for at least 150 minutes/week.

• Stop smoking. Tobacco smoking increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a study in 2009 that concluded

The Takeaway: Get screened, cut down on meat and fat, and get moving.

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