Colorectal cancer is killing young people

By naturopath Margaret Jasinska

The incidence of colon and rectal cancer is rising sharply in people under the age of 50. Many doctors don’t expect bowel cancer in young adults, but it’s increasingly happening in 20 and 30 year olds. Because most doctors don’t expect it, diagnosis typically occurs late. This means chances of survival are poorer.

The incidence of colon and rectal cancer among younger people increased by more than 11 percent between 2004 and 2014. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2016 approximately 135,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. One in seven of them are under the age of 50. Individuals born in 1990 have double the risk of developing colon cancer, and four times the risk of rectal cancer than those born around 1950. Colorectal cancer statistics are very similar in Australia.

What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?

How would you know if you have it? Blood in your stool and a change in bowel habits are the most common symptoms, but often there are no symptoms at all until the disease has spread. Many people (and many doctors) dismiss blood in the stool as simply caused by haemorrhoids or fissures. Yes these are the most common causes in younger people, but every instance of blood in the stool should be investigated.

Becoming a little bit constipated, or experiencing constipation alternating with mild diarrhoea are other common symptoms of bowel cancer. Many people dismiss them as irritable bowel syndrome, particularly if they’ve lived with this condition for most of their life. The underlying message I would like to give you is never self diagnose your symptoms. If you experience new symptoms, please visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis. Most of the time they will not be caused by anything serious, but it’s important for that to be ruled out.

Last year researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center predicted that cases of colon cancer in people aged 20 to 34 will rise by 90 percent by 2030. They predict the number of rectal cancer cases to more than double.

How can you look after your bowel health? There are a number of risk factors for colorectal cancer: high alcohol intake, high sugar intake, low fibre diet, being overweight and a sedentary lifestyle. Carrying excess weight is a significant cancer risk factor because fat cells produce inflammatory chemicals. People with higher levels of inflammation in their body have a higher incidence of cancer. C-reactive protein is one risk factor. Overweight people and type 2 diabetics often have higher levels.

We all know being overweight is unhealthy, but there are a number of hormone imbalances and health conditions that can make losing weight impossible despite eating carefully and exercising regularly. Dr Cabot has gone through these issues and offers her solutions in her book I Can’t Lose Weight and I Don’t Know Why.

The biggest determinant of your bowel health and your overall health is your diet. What you eat each day determines the type of bacteria that is living in your bowel. Diets high in sugar and processed food promote the growth of bad bacteria such as enterococcus, streptococcus and Candida. For more information see Dr Cabot’s book Healthy Bowel, Healthy Body.

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