Some 143,460 new cases of colorectal cancer are found each year. Your lifetime risk of coming down with it is around five percent as one in 18 Americans gets it. The mortality rates are approximately 50 percent for all cases. The outcome is very much related to the stage of the disease at diagnosis. So, detection of early stage tumors should improve prognosis. Carcinomas generally begin as polyps so their removal should reduce cancer incidence. So says Dr. Barbara Jung, Associate Professor of Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Colon cancer remains common and deadly. Effective screening measures are available. Any test is better than no test. Finally, family history is important.
She said that the guidelines for screening are that a person 50 years or older should have a colonoscopy every 10 years, or a CT colonography every five years, or a flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years. As colon cancer is a slow growing cancer these apparently long periods are sufficient for protection.
Dr. Jung was speaking before the Northwestern Memorial Healthy Transitions Program®. Despite some of the bleak aspects of her subject, she concluded with something very positive. She said that exercise and a good diet have been shown to reduce colon cancer. Vegetarians are found to have less colon cancer. She said there were good studies to document the effectiveness of exercise in protecting against colon cancer.
The National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health said in a report, “What is the relationship between physical activity and colon cancer risk?
“Colorectal cancer has been one of the most extensively studied cancers in relation to physical activity, with more than 50 studies examining this association. Many studies in the United States and around the world have consistently found that adults who increase their physical activity, either in intensity, duration, or frequency, can reduce their risk of developing colon cancer by 30 to 40 percent relative to those who are sedentary regardless of body mass index (BMI), with the greatest risk reduction seen among those who are most active. The magnitude of the protective effect appears greatest with high-intensity activity, although the optimal levels and duration of exercise are still difficult to determine due to differences between studies, making comparisons difficult. It is estimated that 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day is needed to protect against colon cancer. It is not yet clear at this time whether physical activity has a protective effect for rectal cancer, adenomas, or polyp, recurrence.
“Physical activity most likely influences the development of colon cancer in multiple ways. Physical activity may protect against colon cancer and tumor development through its role in energy balance, hormone metabolism, insulin regulation, and by decreasing the time the colon is exposed to potential carcinogens. Physical activity has also been found to alter a number of inflammatory and immune factors, some of which may influence colon cancer risk. ”
Once again we find that exercise is the silver bullet that can make our lives better. In this case by reducing our chances of contracting this deadly disease. I have written about the benefits of exercise time and again for the blog. Click the EXERCISE tag at the right to learn more. My personal favorite is Exercise, Aging and the Brain.
Eat less, move more; live longer. Words to live by.