Colon Cancer Awareness Month Finishes

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

Colon Cancer Awareness Month

We have just reached the end of march, which signifies the end to colon cancer awareness month. Colon cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the developed world and claims more than 50’000 lives per year.

The key to surviving colon cancer is to catch it in the early stages of development. Thanks to improving treatment technologies, stage 1 colon cancer has survival rates as high as 90%. Unfortunately many people don’t have regular checkups and notice symptoms, so find themselves with stage 2 or stage 3 upon diagnosis.

Colon Cancer Screening is crucial to avoid death from colon cancer, but there are also some simple lifestyle choices that greatly reduce the risk of colon cancer:

Eat a Healthy Diet Containing Fiber

The best way to avoid colon cancer is to eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, alongside fiber rich foods like oats, wholemeal pasta and wholemeal bread. By eating a diverse range of foods, you help your body remain naturally resistant to colon cancer.

Don’t Use Tobacco

Tobacco use increases the likelihood that you will get colon cancer.  If you are a smoker, quitting could add years to your lifespan and greatly improve the quality of your life.

Exercise and Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obese people are much more likely to get colon cancer than fit people.  By simply getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day you can greatly reduce your colon cancer risk.


Red Meat and Cancer Risk

Red meat cancer risk

Red meat cancer risk

A number of studies have suggested that red meat can play a role in the development of certain cancers. The largest study to provide evidence of the red meat-cancer link involved 478,000 men and women in Europe. It found that eating more than 5 ounces of red meat per day could raise your colon cancer risk by approximately a third, when compared to those who ate the least red meat.

The consumption of chicken did not appear to alter the colon cancer risk and eating fish actually lowered colon cancer risk.

The other substantial study involved nearly 150,000 Americans between the ages of 50 and 74. It found that a diet heavy in red and processed meats increased cancer risk of the colon and rectum. Eating fish and poultry appeared to protect individuals from these forms of cancer. Other studies have sugested that red meat can increase colon cancer risk by between 20% and 28%.

Red meat consumption is also believed to increase the risk of other cancers, including breast, prostate, lung and ovarian cancers.

Why does red meat increase cancer risk?

The conventional thought in recent years was that the act of grilling red meat created various carcinogens. However, new research at UC San Diego has highlighted at alternative theory. Researchers believe that the risk of cancer is increased because red meat contains a substance that is not found in the human body. This substance (called Neu5Gc), increases inflammation which can result in higher cancer risk.

Researchers established the interactions of this chemical by using mice, genetically engineered to not produce it internally. When this foreign chemical integrated with tissue, it triggered a reaction from the immune system and increased inflammation.

Interestingly, the inflammation and cancer risk from this chemical only occurs in humans, which is why researchers had to use genetically modified mice in their tests.

The inflammation from this chemical may also help other forms of cancer take hold within the body. For example, a smoker might be at greater risk of getting lung cancer if they eat a lot of red meat.

Researchers don’t suggest we should stop eating red meat, but simply eat it in moderation. It contains high levels of iron and protein, which benefit the human body. The senior author of the paper, Dr Varki, suggests that red meat consumption for people under 40 years of age is less of a problem. As people get older and their cancer risk increases, the inflammation presents a large threat.

If you decide to continue eating meat, researchers suggest having 3-4 ounce servings 1-3 times a week should present no substantial increase in cancer risk. Interestingly, the lead researcher only eats chicken and fish!

Neu5Gc is a type sugar molecule, referred to as a sialic acid. Researchers believe that sialic acids can affect many parts of the body, causing inflammation, altering brain development and affecting the immune system. It is believed that some diseases make use of sialic acids to hide themselves from the immune system.

The reason that fish and chicken do not carry the same inflammation risk, is that for the most part, they do not carry nonhuman sialic acids like Neu5Gc. The fish that do carry it, carry small amounts. Fish in particular carries properties than can reduce cancer risk, like high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids.

The next step is to find a medication which is capable of helping the body deal with the chemical and prevent the inflammation. These research findings could eventually help lower cancer rates in countries where red meat consumption is very high — like the United States.

Repurposing Drugs for use in Oncology

Cimetidine to help fight cancer

Cimetidine to help fight cancer

A new research paper has looked at commonly used drugs that can be repurposed to help fight cancer. One example is the common used indigestion medicine cimetidine, which can help treat colorectal cancer.

Medical professionals already know cimetidine is safe, from various trials and many years of use. Therefore, it can be easily combined with other cancer treatments. Cimetidine reduces digestion by blocking histamine receptors in the gut, which reduces the production of gastric acid. It turns out that the drug can also block histamine receptors in cancer cells, which helps the immune system defend against them.

Cimetidine may have a beneficial effect in treating colorectal cancer, renal cancer and melanoma.

The researchers found that:

Based on the evidence presented, it is proposed that cimetidine would synergise with a range of other drugs, including existing chemotherapeutics, and that further exploration of the potential of cimetidine as an anti-cancer therapeutic is warranted. Furthermore, there is compelling evidence that cimetidine administration during the peri-operative period may provide a survival benefit in some cancers. A number of possible combinations with other drugs are discussed in the supplementary material accompanying this paper.

Reducing Cancer Risk

One of the most common drugs that can be repurposed to help avoid cancer may be aspirin. There is a growing body of research that aspirin can reduce pancreatic cancer risk and improve colorectal cancer prognosis.

Repurposing Drugs in Oncology (ReDO)

ReDO is a project that has been looking at ways common drugs may be used to help improve cancer treatments.

It’s primary pbjectives are:

– Identify the most promising drugs for further clinical investigation
– Review and bring to the attention of clinical investigators the data for these drugs
– Document on how these drugs can be combined with existing therapies, or with other repurposed drugs
– Develop clinical trials to provide positive or negative evidence of efficacy
– Where necessary, suggest areas where further pre-clinical work is necessary

By finding commonly used drugs that have a beneficial effect in the fight against cancer, the research group also helps provide low cost treatments and preventatives against cancer.

New Home Testing Kit for Colon Cancer

Cologard Colon Cancer Test

Cologard Colon Cancer Test

In most cases, the earlier you detect cancer, the greater your chances of survival. In recent years a number of devices have been designed to help people regularly test for cancer in their own homes. One such device is the “Cologuard” test kit that checks for the presence of colon cancer.

The test looks at human stools to ascertain if cancer related DNA is present. Colon cancer is an extremely common form of cancer, responsible for approximately 50’000 deaths annually in the United States. The most frequent test for colon cancer is the intrusive colonoscopy. Because of the intrusiveness of the test, many people delay or avoid colonoscopies, which is one of the reasons colon cancer kills so many people.

It’s important to note that this test is not a complete replacement for the colonoscopy, but a supplement to traditional testing. It may help catch the cancer earlier, if it develops between colonoscopies. But for people who avoid colonoscopies it may be the only test they perform.

The Cologuard test was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so will be available nationwide soon.

Cologard works by detecting anomalies in the DNA found in stools. The anomalies indicate the presence of precancerous growths called polyps. Traditionally, a test of this sort would be done at a laboratory. If polyps were found, it would be followed up with a colonoscopy. Adults over 50 should have their stools tested for signs of polyps every year.

Cologard is actually very accurate for finding signs of polyps. A study has found that it can detect 92% of colorectal cancers and 42% of growths. For a home test, that is a high level of accuracy.

Unfortunately, cologard has a higher than normal rate of false alarms. Cologard found false positives 13% of the time. Because a colonoscopy is suggested if a positive result is found, that could mean 13% of people have unnecessary colonoscopies. However, for people who have a family history of colorectal cancers that increase in false positives could be perfectly justified.

The unit costs about $600. Compare that to the cost of the less effective blood test at $25 a year and the more effective DNA test at $1800. It’s important to note that the DNA test only needs to be taken once every 3 years.

So it’s a tricky purchasing decision. If you are at increased risk of colorectal cancer it could be a great idea that might save your life. For other people, it’s less clear if cologard is worth the money.

It’s important to remember that colorectal cancers are extremely common in the United States and kill more than 50,000 people annually. Many people don’t get screened at all, so the cancer develops unchecked and eventually kills them. If you are hesitant about going to the doctor to have regular checkups, something like the cologard could save your life.

Aspirin May Help Colon Cancer Prognosis

Aspirin and Colon Cancer

Aspirin and Colon Cancer

According to a new study, the prognosis of patients with colon cancer may be improved by simply consuming aspirin!

The research looked at close to 1000 patients with colon cancer over a number of years and determined that of those who took aspirin regularly, 37.9% died compared to 48.5% for people who did not consume aspirin regularly. The study tracked patients for between 4 and 10 years.

The catch was that the benefit was only seen in patients with a certain type of tumor. The tumor in question produces a HLA class I antigen protein which is involved in the immune systems response to cancer cells. Researchers don’t yet understand the full interaction between this type of tumor, the protein and the immune system so more research is needed.

One of the researchers, Gerrit Jan Liefers, said of the results: “If our results are confirmed by others and aspirin is studied as a treatment in a proper phase three randomized trial, then we would have a valid new anti-cancer treatment that is both safe and cheap”. The research was carried out by the University Medical Center in the Netherlands.

This is especially exciting because most cancer treatments are very expensive, and aspirin is one of the cheapest pharmaceuticals you can purchase. According to Dr Liefers, “In a world were new targeted therapies usually cost thousands of dollars and most have serious side effects, this would mean great progress”

Colon cancer is still one of the most common forms of cancer in the world and it is responsible for over 50’000 deaths each year in the United States. Over 140’000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the United States as well, so any progress in the treatment of this disease is of huge importance.

Researchers are now looking to understand the link between aspirin and colon cancer, because it’s not immediately clear why this effect exists. They speculate that the aspirin is hampering the ability of cancer cells from the tumors to circulate through the body and develop into new growths.

Researchers urge caution to people who currently have colon cancer, because random drug trials need to take place before we know for certain that the link exists between aspirin and colon cancer mitigation.

That being said, for most people there is no harm in taking aspirin so there is in effect “nothing to lose” by taking it if you have been diagnosed with colon cancer. Of course consult your doctor before changing or adding medications, because various drugs can interact in sometimes unpredictable ways.

FDA Panel Endorses Non-invasive Colon Cancer Screening

Colon Cancer Prevention

Colon Cancer Prevention

In the United States, a panel of the Food and Drug Administration has endorsed a new colon cancer testing procedure. The test uses DNA from a stool sample to look for precancerous growths and colon cancer.

The FDA panel voted unanimously to endorse the testing procedure which is alternative to the invasive colonoscopy examination. The test is called “Cologard”, and was developed by Exact Sciences, an American company from Wisconsin. The FDA does not have to follow the boards advice, but it is usually the case.

The CEO of Exact Sciences, Kenvin Conry, said: “We are pleased the committee strongly supported Cologuard’s approval. We look forward to continuing our work with the FDA to complete its review of Cologuard and remain committed to addressing the growing unmet needs in colorectal cancer screening.”

Stool tests have been used in the past, with doctors simply looking for hidden blood as a sign that precancerous polyps and tumors may be present in the colon. However this new test uses DNA to obtain a very accurate indication of the presence of polyps and tumors.

The test isn’t 100% effective however. According to recent research in the New England Journal of Medicine, Cologard was 92% effective for spotting colon cancer and 94% effective for spotting early stage colon cancer (stage I and II).

The test looks for altered DNA that is shed during digestion of food. Small genetic changes occur when cancer cells are present in the colon and the test can spot them most of the time.

There are other non-invasive tests that may soon be available as well. The Epi proColon kit from Epigenomics tests blood samples to look for signs of cancer.

Cologard may not be available for a few years however, because follow up studies may be required to further determine the accuracy of the test. Currently the government recommends that patients between the ages of 50 and 75 have annual blood tests done on their stools, however many people don’t do that despite the test only costing $25. We don’t know how much the Cologard test would cost, but presumably it would be more expensive because of it’s additional complexity.

One problem with Cologard is that it does return more false positives, according to researchers. That means it sometimes reported growths where there weren’t any. Doctors also have no idea where the growth is in the colon, so the false positive must be backed up with a colonscopy.

Colorectal cancer is one of the biggest killers in the United States with more than 50’000 people dying annually from the disease. The sad part is that death from this form of cancer is usually avoidable with regular screening. The death rate from colon cancer is decreasing because of greater public awareness, but it is still shockingly high. The key point here is that people need to be screened annually.

Hopefully Cologard will provide an accurate way to determine the presence of the disease without the need for the invasive Colonoscopy that deters many people.

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month!

Exercise to Avoid Cancer

Exercise to Avoid Cancer

Dr Rebecca Moss has written a fantastic article for Slate magazine, aimed at raising awareness for one of the most preventable forms of cancer, colorectal cancer. Dr Moss specializes in gastrointestinal cancers at the research level so has a professional understanding of the cause, symptoms, diagnosis and prognosis of the disease.

Her advice is thorough but can be summarized in a few main points. If you wish to avoid dying from colorectal cancer and want to minimize risk:

  1. Have a colonoscopy when your doctor tells you to so you find tumors and polyps before they become cancerous
  2. Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight!

As Dr Moss points out in the article, unfortunately many Americans are not getting enough exercise. In fact the vast majority of people don’t get enough exercise with only 1 in 5 exercising enough. That is a staggering statistic and of great concern to researchers who know that exercise is a key to avoiding this form of cancer.

Meanwhile plenty of Americans are still taking vitamins and other health supplements in the mistaken belief that it will protect them from cancer.

So exercise is really a massive factor with regular exercise helping to prevent some of the most dangerous diseases that face adults in America – Obesity, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Colorectal Cancer.

Unfortunately due to the explosion of obesity in the United States, colorectal cancer is a common form of the disease. The article also points out that diabetes increase the risk of colorectal cancer by an astonishing 30%. The horror of these statistics is that these diseases can be avoided with regular exercise and a healthy diet. The diseases are also greatly impacting on aging baby boomers, who having reached retirement age are instead facing horrible health problems because they haven’t been exercising with regularity in the last few decades.

So ladies and gentlemen, takes the doctors advice, get out and about. With exercise you will not only be reducing the risk of diabetes, cancer, obesity and heart disease, you will also look and feel better. It’s a win/win situation so get off the couch and enjoy a longer and happier life.

Cancer Prevention with Whole Grains

Whole Grains Cancer Reduction

Whole Grains Cancer Reduction

One of the best ways to reduce your cancer risk is to maintain a healthy diet with a diverse intake of foods. Generally, consuming foods that haven’t been processed is best, so fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. Research has revealed that whole grains are a particularly important form of food for the reduction of risk in certain types of cancer. This article will take a look at which types of cancer whole grains can help prevent and how to choose whole grain foods!

Whole grains are cereal grains that contain cereal germ, endosperm, and bran. They are close to their natural form as opposed to refined grains that have been processed to make them more easily used in processed foods or to improve the aesthetics of the food. Refined grains only contain the endosperm because the milling process removes the cereal germ and bran. The bran is the outer protective layer of the grain kernels and the endosperm is the starchy carbohydrate inside the bran husk. The germ is a very healthy part of the grain because it contains vitamin B, minerals, protein and healthy fats. Unfortunately processing the grain will remove the germ and you lose all of those benefits.

You can refer to the image above to see the different parts of a wheat grain. The next time you are shopping you can also compared brown rice and white rice to see the difference between unprocessed and processed rice. The brown rice is the natural state of rice, before the germ and bran have been removed in the processing. After the rice is processed it is white and faster to cook. That makes it more convenient but you also lose many of the natural nutrients in the rice.

Health Benefits of Grains

Many of the plant compounds in whole grains are very nutritious and contain compounds that can help protect your cells from damage that can lead to cancer. Whole grains are also high in fiber which helps maintain good overall health as well as reducing the risk of cancer of stomach, colon and rectum (amongst others). In addition to the fiber there are various antioxidants, phenols, lignans and saponins (organic compounds). Let;s take a closer look at these components.

Antioxidants are compounds that help minimize cell oxidization from free radicals. Anti-oxidants can help prevent aging, help you remain healthy and help prevent cancer.

Phenols are fragrant organic compounds in oils that also have interesting antibacterial properties and help your immune system. Lignans are a plant based form of estrogen that can help protect damaged cells. Saponins act as natural anti-biotic within the body as well as playing a role in fighting cholesterol and protecting against cancer.

Cancer Research Findings

Many studies have been performed into the possible link between whole grains and cancer prevention. A meta-analysis of 19 studies into the link between whole grains and reduction of risk of colo-rectal cancer and gastric cancer found that in 16 of the studies, the cancer risk reduction from whole grains was “high” compared to a diet with only refined grains.

A separate meta-study saw 45 from 50 studies mention that whole grains have an associated decrease in cancer risk. Whole grain consumption mostly reduces risk in gastro-intestinal cancers with analysis showing a 20% reduced risk of colon cancer, 28% reduced risk of pancreatic cancer and a 40% lower risk of gastric cancer.

Other research papers have linked the consumption of whole grains to a reduction of risk for 18 types of cancer. That includes reduced risk of stomach, colon, gallbladder, liver, rectum and pancreatic cancers.

Eating More Whole Grains

It’s very easy to start eating more whole grains and get the great cancer prevention and health benefits. Stop buying white bread and choose a healthier brown or grain bread. Remove white rice from your diet and start using brown. You can also switch to whole grain cereals instead of processed cereals like your standard corn flakes. Some whole grains are fun to eat, like pop corn! Switch to wholemeal crackers, brown flour and look into the ingredients of ready to eat meals – are their better alternatives.

Once you make the switch you will not only find that you are reducing cancer risk, but you will also have increased energy and fell better. The extra nutrition in whole grains will have an impact on your overall health. Try it out!

Colon Cancer Warning Signs

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Colon Cancer Symptoms

Colon cancer has unfortunately become more common in recent years, with many cancer researchers believing poor diet being the leading cause. It is one of the types of cancer where early detection greatly improves your chances of survival. So to spot colon cancer you should be looking out for the warning signs. There are a number of warning signs but this article will go over the most common warning signs that indicate you may have developed colon cancer.

Colon cancer usually manifests as a slow growing tumor in the colon or rectum. Because they are slow growing, the symptoms build gradually and can sometimes to hard to notice. Unfortunately this often means that the tumor is not diagnosed until a late stage, when it is more difficult to treat – the earlier you catch it the better.

The first warning sign you should be aware of is persistent fatigue. If you were previously an alert, energetic person who has begun to feel weak or tired regardless of how much rest you have, that is a sign of possible colon cancer or some other form of cancer. Unfortunately, quite often it is the only sign of colon cancer that people experience.

The fatigue is caused by bleeding inside your colon and can only be detected with a scan. The best way to spot fatigue is to stay fit and healthy. If you are healthy, then gradual feeling of fatigue is much more noticeable than if you were unfit and constantly tired already.

If you suddenly experience diarrhea or constipation and it goes on for a long period you should be screened for colon cancer. In fact, if you have any unusual changes in your bowel habits, when you go to the toilet and what comes out, you should see your doctor immediately. Another unusual change would be if you hadn’t changed your diet but went from 1 bowel movement a day to 4 bowel movements a day. If you went from 1 bowel movement a day to 1 every 4 days and that change was persistent, that would also be considered a very unusual change and you should see a doctor immediately.

The constipation could be a result of tumor growth in your rectum which is causing some kind of obstruction and preventing your stool from easily exiting the rectum. If you start to experience difficultly during bowel movements and it persists (lasts a number of weeks), you should see the doctor. Persistent diarrhea can be caused by tumor growth in the left colon which interferes with the stool.

You should also look at the color of your stool. If you notice unusual changes that are persistent or blood with your stool you should also see a doctor. Colon cancer can be a tricky one to catch, but if you are aware of the symptoms you stand a much greater chance of survival.