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Here’s How Weight Loss Can Help You Prevent Colorectal Cancer

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Female leg stepping on weigh scales with measuring tape

Weight has been a general concern for many people. Its connection with chronic illnesses like obesity and diabetes established the need for weight management.

Now, it is even more imperative, considering the link between weight and colorectal cancer is apparent. 

A study showed that weight changes affect an individual’s risk of colorectal adenoma. Moreover, the data suggest that weight loss can be a crucial preventive measure for those susceptible to this condition. 

With the prevalence of colorectal cancer, new information on its prevention holds utmost value. 

According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer remains the third leading cancer-related death. 

With that, it helps to understand what role weight management plays in preventing colorectal cancer. So, stick around as we explore the details of this finding. 

How Does Weight Loss Lower the Risk for Colorectal Cancer? 

athletic man holding a weight scale

According to research, weight loss is an effective way to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer. For example, in a PLCO study, it appeared that individuals who started losing weight also reduced their risk for colon and rectal cancer by 46%. 

Although this trend still needs further research, the reduction justifies the benefits of weight loss encompassing metabolism readjustment. If the body metabolizes energy the healthy way, cellular damages are prevented. 

And as you may already know, if your cell succumbs to regular damage, it can mutate into a cancerous form. 

Since people who are overweight or diagnosed with obesity tend to have a poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle, it is safe to say that their digestion requires more work and energy. This could stretch the digestive organs’ function and wellness, leading to critical issues.

With this logic, it makes sense that weight loss can indeed lower the risk for colorectal cancer. 

Understanding Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer affects both men and women the same way. Despite being one of the deadliest forms of cancer, it has a 65% survival rate within a five-year period. Moreover, localized stage colorectal cancer even has a survival rate of 91%. 

A huge part of colorectal cancer remission and recovery is understanding the condition’s nature, prevention, and treatment. 

What Is Colorectal Cancer? 

Colorectal cancer occurs when cells in the colon and rectum mutate and grow uncontrollably. As a result, they disrupt the functions of healthy cells, causing an imbalance in the overall physiological state of the body. 

In some cases, colorectal cancer develops from polyps that grow abnormally on the linings of the digestive tract. If these polyps remain untreated, there’s a fair chance that they turn cancerous or malignant.

Due to this development, people at risk for colorectal cancer are advised to take screening tests for polyps and tumors. These lab works include a stool occult blood test and colonoscopy. 

Is Colon Cancer The Same With Colorectal Cancer? 

Colon cancer classifies as colorectal cancer. Hence, they are often used interchangeably. Your colon or the large intestine absorbs water, electrolytes, and nutrients from the food you eat. 

Once the food gets dehydrated, it forms a stool that passes through the rectum and the anus for excretion.  

While this process goes like clockwork for healthy individuals, people with colorectal cancer experience drastic changes in their bowel patterns. 

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

  • Fatigue
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness 
  • Constipation
  • Blood in stool
  • Too much gas
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Sudden weight loss 
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Changes in stool shape and color

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Inactivity

Research shows that people who have a sedentary lifestyle are more likely to develop colon cancer than those who choose to be active. The study also highlighted the association between insulin resistance and colonic cancer cell growth. 

People who are inactive for most of the day develop higher risks for insulin resistance due to their slow metabolism. Hence, the association is apparent. 

Obesity or being overweight

Being obese or overweight increases your risk for colorectal cancer by 30%. This causation can be explained by the increase in leptin among people with obesity. Leptin is a hormone secreted by fat cells.

According to research, leptin increases colon tumor growth.  As a result, it becomes a marker for colorectal cancer.

Inflammatory bowel disease

People diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are more susceptible to colorectal cancer. This could be due to a faulty genetic disposition, especially when new cells emerge as a result of these conditions. 

Family history

The genetic nature of colorectal cancer is also apparent because your risk for the condition increases if someone in your family has received a diagnosis for cancer. 

Hence, it is imperative to disclose your family history of the disease to your physician during your physical exam. 

Low-fiber diet

If your diet comprises mainly processed and fast food and virtually zero fruits and vegetables, you are at risk of developing colorectal cancer. The lack of fiber in your diet decreases the function of the colon. 

On the other hand, research has shown that a high fiber diet reduces your risk for colorectal cancer. With this data, your choice of the eating pattern should be more apparent. 

Smoking

Tobacco increases your risk for colorectal cancer by 50%. Particularly, this data applies to people smoking more than one pack of cigarettes daily. Therefore, chain-smokers opt to get themselves tested for the condition.

Drinking alcohol 

Alcoholism remains a common risk factor for different cancers. However, it’s directly associated with colorectal cancer considering it influences cellular mutation in the digestive tract. In addition, multiple studies support the notion that alcohol addiction can eventually lead to colon or rectal cancer. 

Can I Reduce My Risks of Colorectal Cancer? 

Smiled attractive woman mulatto with centimeter tape on the waist in sportswear indoor

As it turns out, you can lower your risk for colorectal cancer with the right health choices. Unfortunately, there’s no specific way to prevent colorectal cancer entirely, especially if you factor in the genetic triggers. But you can work on environmental factors that increase vulnerability for the condition.

First, your diet and activity should secure a healthy gastrointestinal tract. By protecting your digestive system and ensuring sufficient nutrient intake, the function of your colon and rectum remains intact. 

And as a rule of thumb, when an organ functions as it is, few damages are sustained, eliminating the need for extracellular growth. 

Then, of course, it’s also imperative to give up vices like smoking and alcohol consumption. But, by doing so, you also eliminate potential triggers of tumor growth.

Lastly, you could better control your health if you take regular health and wellness checkups. This way, your doctor can diagnose conditions that could escalate to colorectal cancer earlier. 

And when these diseases are detected at their onset, you can easily prevent them from turning for the worse.

How To Get Tested for Colorectal Cancer 

Screening for colorectal cancer involves multiple procedures such as the following:

Stool Tests (Fecal Occult Blood Test)

This test detects blood in small traces from your stool. Through the naked eye, fecal occult blood may not be visible. However, blood cells can be identified when placed under a microscope or subjected to an immunoassay. 

Blood in the stool can be an initial marker for polyp growth – both malignant and benign.

Blood Tests 

While there is no particular blood test for colorectal cancer, some labs work to strengthen the diagnosis. 

For instance, a carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) test checks CEA in the blood. If the level of this antigen increases, it could indicate colorectal cancer. 

Colonoscopy and Sigmoidoscopy 

Colonoscopy and sigmoidoscopy use a flexible tube containing a camera to navigate the colorectal area. Both procedures detect and remove polyps. 

However, the difference is that colonoscopy scopes the entire colon while sigmoidoscopy only covers the lower part of the colon or sigmoid and the rectum. 

Bottom Line 

Research highlights the role of weight loss in improving your colorectal health. Hence, if you are at high risk for colorectal cancer, it’s high time to take your weight loss journey seriously.

Nonetheless, before starting any weight loss program, it’s always best to consult your doctor. Moreover, you could also benefit from weight management tests that ensure your health and wellness before and after your body changes for the better. 

Medically Approved By Dr. Edward Salko, MD

Dr. Edward Salko is the board-certified physician who reviews lab tests provided by PERSONALABS™. He earned his Bachelor of Science in chemistry and pre-med from the University of Florida in Gainesville and his Doctor of Osteopathy Medicine in 1980 from Kansas City University School of Medicine.

Dr. Salko’s career has specialized in family and emergency medicine. His passion is to provide clients with the tools they need in the most convenient way possible to allow them to take charge of their own healthcare. He has held a variety of positions in Kansas, Florida and Washington. Currently, in addition to his duties as Medical Director for Personalabs, he is a practicing emergency physician in Kennewick, Washington.

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