Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Good New/Bad News on Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancers remain the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US, and the rate increases with age. But the incidence of these cancers in people over 50 - the longstanding age at which regular screenings are recommended - has been declining in recent years. This is unquestionably good news.

But - and here is the bad news - the incidence of colorectal cancers in people under 50 years old is increasing. And based on current trends, the numbers are expected to grow in coming years.

Researchers at MD Anderson Cancer Center examined data from nearly 400,000 patents who had been diagnosed with colorectal cancers and concluded that the increase in risk among younger adults is real, and is expected to increase for at least the next 14 years.

Even though the precise reason(s) for this trend are unclear, suspected causes include:

1. Skyrocketing obesity rates. People who are obese are at a higher risk for colorectal cancers than those at a normal weight. And Americans are becoming obese at younger and younger ages.

2. Stubbornly crappy diets. The SAD (Standard American Diet) - high in processed foods, fast food and saturated fats, and low in fiber rich plant foods - has been strongly linked to higher cancer rates. Low fiber diets, in particular, are associated with higher risk for colorectal cancers.

3. Lack of physical activity. It used to be called "lack of exercise". Now it is "lack of physical activity", aka, getting out of your chair. Physical activity lowers the risk of developing colorectal cancers and increases the survival rate of people who have them. Younger Americans are less active then previous generations.

So what is a concerned and prudent person to do? Discuss your specific risk factors with your doctor at your next annual physical. (You do have an annual physical right?) And in the meantime, be on the safe side and:

1. Eat Less.

2. Eat Better.

3. Move More.

Hmmmm. That's pretty much the same prescription for everything that ails us.