Colon cancer also known as colorectal cancer starts in the colon (large intestine) or the rectum (end of the colon). With 655,000 deaths worldwide per year, it is the third most common form of cancer and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the Western world. In the United States, it is the fourth most common cancer in men and women. Caught early, it is often curable. It is more common in people over 50, and the risk increases with age.
Symptoms may include the following:
• Abdominal pain and tenderness in the lower abdomen
• Blood in the stool
• Diarrhea, constipation or other changes in bowel habits
• Intestinal obstruction (partial or complete blockage of the bowel)
• Narrow stools
• Unexplained anemia
• Weight loss with no reason
Everyone who is 50 or older should be screened for colorectal cancer. Colonoscopy is one method that your doctor can use to screen for colorectal cancer. Treatments for colorectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation or a combination of treatments.
Dietary fiber is a general term that refers to a wide variety of compounds found in plants that are resistant to the digestive enzymes produced by humans. Fiber is classified as soluble or insoluble. Foods high in soluble fiber include oat bran, oatmeal, beans, peas, rice bran, barley, citrus fruits, strawberries and apple pulp. Foods high in insoluble fiber include whole wheat breads, wheat cereals, wheat bran, rye, rice, barley, apple skin, beets, carrots, Brussels sprouts, turnips, cauliflower and cabbage. Consuming a diet lacking in fiber increases the risk of developing gastrointestinal problems such as constipation, diverticular disorders, and alterations in glycemic control. It has been recommended that Americans should strive to achieve a total dietary fiber intake of 25 to 30 grams/day. However, dietary surveys indicate that dietary fiber intake among adults in the United States averages about 15 grams/day, or approximately half the recommended amount.
Previous epidemiological studies lacked convincing results between dietary fiber and colorectal cancer risk so a team of researchers decided to examine this concept by conducting a prospective case-control study nested within seven UK cohort studies. These studies included 579 patients who developed colorectal cancer more than a year after they began keeping the food diaries and 1,996 who did not develop colorectal cancer. The scientists obtained dietary data from 4 to 7 day food diaries and food-frequency questionnaires completed by the participants to estimate fiber intake. All participants were matched for sex, age and date of diary completion. The results were statistically significant and consistent that higher intake of dietary fiber was inversely associated with the risk of colorectal cancer. Individuals who consumed 24 grams of fiber daily were 30 percent less likely to develop colorectal cancer compared to those who consumed 10 grams of fiber daily. The authors wrote “These findings strengthen existing evidence that supports recommendations to increase dietary fiber intake in populations to reduce colorectal cancer incidence”1
1 Dahm CC, Keogh RH, Spencer EA, et al. Dietary fiber and colorectal cancer risk: a nested case-control study using food diaries. J Natl Cancer Inst. May2010;102(9):614-26.