Key factors: dietary fiber, healthy weight
[00:00:00] Host Amber Smith: Here's some expert advice from Dr. Jeffrey Albright from Upstate Medical University. How can we prevent colon cancer?
[00:00:09] Jeffrey Albright, MD: There are a number of things we think are probably the contributing factors for why people are getting colon cancer at a younger age. And, there's an interesting link between obesity, so being overweight, and developing cancer at a younger age, and it is for a range of cancers, and colon cancer is just one of them. And so maintaining healthy weight is a very important thing for people to try to do, for a number of different reasons, not just colon cancer, but overall health.
We know that diabetes is associated with both developing colon cancer as well as being overweight. And so, if you're diabetic because of being overweight, that probably also contributes, and so that's kind of a double whammy.
Third thing has to do with diet. And we know that there's some things like eating lots of red meat, especially grilled or fried food, food with a lot of preservatives in it, also are damaging to the lining of the colon and can set off a cascade leading to precancerous changes or cancer.
(Likewise), having a diet that's low in fiber. People talk more and more about the microbiome. So that's the different bacteria and yeast and other things that live on our skin, in our GI (gastrointestinal, or digestive) tract, wherever, that just coexist with us. And what we eat is going to feed the bacteria in our intestine. And if we eat things that cause more inflammation in the lining of the colon, then that's going to make people more prone to developing colon cancer.
And so there's actually been some interesting studies where if you compare people that are on a high-fiber diet, which decreases the inflammation on the colon, and you switch them over to a diet where they eat more of an American type of diet, that causes a lot more inflammation and a change in the microbiome to bacteria that contribute to inflammation and can contribute to cancer.
And so, eating a diet that's high in fiber, high in fruits and vegetables, more limited on things like grilled meats, can definitely impact somebody's potential for getting colon cancer. When we talk about giving people fiber supplements, it's trying to put back into our diet what we normally should be getting. But because American diets have so much processed food, where a lot of that fiber is really taken out, it's tougher to get it just with a normal diet. And so, taking a supplement can put everything back in that we should otherwise be getting. People can start on that in their 20s and 30s and probably have that long-term benefit. There's no harm in taking it for the vast majority of people, so it can be a preventative thing, especially if you're prone to it, and it just helps to keep the colon healthy and happy.
The other thing I'd say for people, aside from diet, is, listen to your doctor. Take these things seriously. It's a whole lot easier to go through the screening tests, even though doing a bowel prep to clean out your intestine for a colonoscopy is not fun, it's not that bad. And it sure beats living with a colostomy or not living because of advanced colon cancer.
[00:02:46] Host Amber Smith: You've been listening to colorectal surgeon, Jeffrey Albright from Upstate Medical University.