by Vladimire Herard


Periodic screenings, healthy eating habits, regular physical exercise, weight loss, smoking cessation and limited alcohol intake guide patients into maintaining colon health and averting the onset of cancer, government and professional medical trade association authorities say.


Research from the American Cancer Society, the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services find that maintaining sound health habits can assist in avoiding colorectal cancer.


However, organizational research shows that young adults, as compared with seniors, aren’t positioned to reverse the grim statistics of this deadly illness.


Additionally, disparities among disadvantaged racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic communities and the limits in guidance, instruction, engagement and technical resources by the government and healthcare systems serve as an obstacle to proper diagnoses, preventive measures and treatment nationally.


No Action Steps


Specifically, most individuals are not pro-active enough in preventing the onset of colon cancer, which is considered the second leading deadly form of this disease nationwide.


Colon cancer is one of the most prevalent diseases in North America and Europe. Lumps of tissue in the colon and rectum become polyps, which, when detected by physicians, are eradicated through regular colonoscopies before they turn into cancer.


Surgery is used to remove the lumps. If the polyps are found quickly, patients have a 90 percent chance of survival.


Research found that over two-thirds of individuals nationally do not speak with their doctors about colon cancer. In one report, over 1,000 adults took part in a phone survey about their health habits.


The report yielded the results of research with nearly 93 percent of men and 95 percent of women admitting that they would feel comfortable discussing colon health with their doctors though 68 percent of men and 67 percent of women have not done so.


Age Factors


With the risk of developing colon cancer increasing after age 50, about half or 46 percent of research participants have not raised the subject with their doctors.


Another half or 52 percent are not anxious over contracting this form of cancer, though pervasive, at any time in their lives. Figures are similar for those over the age of 50 at 45 percent.


Young adults are also at risk. While colorectal cancer impacts seniors most at 20 percent, 27 percent of all cases take place among patients younger than age 55, up from 10 percent in 1995, the American Cancer Society reports.


Symptoms include stomach pain, unaccounted-for weight loss, changes in the amount, size or look of stools and rectal bleeding. These symptoms occur in nearly 50 percent of cases among young adults against 26 percent of cases among adults over age 50.


The Society further reports that young adult patients waited 40 percent longer to get diagnosed than seniors. Much of the delay can be attributed to a sense of immortality and invincibility among young adults.


As a result, primary care or general medicine doctors and specialists point to the value of warding off stigma in discussing and taking rectal health seriously.


When caught early, treated and then prevented, patients of all ages are equally as likely to survive the disease though young adults do receive tougher medical treatment when found ill and have fewer other health conditions at the same time.


Research appearing in the medical journal Science points to environmental and genetic influences as a cause but also to a lack of screening, especially in rural or low-income areas, and false diagnoses in those without cancer factor in as well.


With higher rates of the development of colorectal cancer among middle-aged adults, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that patients start screening for the disease at age 45 and not 50 but perhaps much earlier if they are more at risk because of environmental or genetic factors. About 33 percent of colorectal cancers are affiliated with family history and genetics.


Health and life habits do weigh in on the onset of colorectal cancer, including diet. This includes drinking more sugary beverages and consuming more red and processed meats. In particular, extra weight, diet and a lack of physical fitness heighten the risk of cancer though only five percent of such cases are affiliated with this.


Additionally, excessive weight or obesity are connected to tumors on the right side of the colon, not the left, where the Society is discovering the increases in cases. More weight is an issue for men than it is for women but the rise in cases among young adults is uniform, regardless of gender.


Also, a greater use of antibiotics, the spread of environmental poisons, more Cesarean sections by pregnant women and other forms of surgeries are playing a role in the cultivation of colorectal cancer.


Such lifestyle choices affect what is known as the microbiome or the colony of bacteria and other microorganisms that line the digestive tract. The early diagnosis of the colectoral cancer is linked to antibiotic use during one’s youth.


Racial, Ethnic, Class, Geographic Disparities


As is the case with young adults, racial and ethnic disparities play a role in the rates of colorectal cancer and deaths with such risk factors as fewer screenings and inequitable access to health care.


Research shows that Alaskan Natives endure the highest incidence of colorectal cancer worldwide. Among this demographic, cases of illness are two times that of whites nationally.


Additionally, deaths are almost four times higher among natives and the indigenous, which are the only racial and ethnic group whose cases are not decreasing throughout the country.


In fact, the exact reverse is taking place as cases are increasing by two percent every year among natives. Colon cancer is the most diagnosed form of the disease within this demographic.


Researchers are connecting the high prevalence among Alaskan Natives to vitamin D deficiency due to less exposure to the sun in cold climes, cigarette use, obesity and nutrition from smoked fish but not fiber, fruits and vegetables.


Even higher gaps exist between cases and deaths in African Americans. Incidence of colorectal cancer among blacks are 21 percent higher than in whites and their rates of death are 44 percent higher.


Around the country, three-year survival rates for colon cancer are 30 percent for those tested between 2016 to 2018, an improvement from 25 percent 10 years before. By contrast, however, the survival rates of African Americans flattened at 22 percent because of less access to upgraded treatment and therapies.


Disparities by geography also involve high rates of cigarette use and obesity as well as socioeconomic status, a lack of health insurance and limited access to health care. For instance, incidences of colorectal cancer and death are low in the West and high in the Appalachian region, some parts of the Deep South and the Midwest.


Indepth study of cases and deaths in counties in these geographical regions throughout the country will reveal similarities. Obesity and poor diets accompany low-to-moderate incomes as manufactured foods high in fat, salt and cholesterol are more affordable and less likely to rot than fresh foods.


Also, disadvantaged black, Native, low-income and certain geographic communities face disparities in preventing, diagnosing and treating colon cancer because they are not well-informed about screening other than through colonoscopy such as stool testing. Testing overall means visiting medical clinics or hospitals, which are rare in Alaska and other rural locales.


Colonoscopies also call for anesthesia or painkillers, which requires patients to schedule appointments outside of a job and to enlist a family member, relative or friend to also leave work to drive them home. Such arrangements are nearly impossible to make for members of low-income communities.


As a consequence, improved health outcomes in colon cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment will call for more health insurance, testing, guidance, instruction, engagement and technical resources from government and healthcare systems to disadvantaged communities.


Lack of Knowledge


Nationwide, more than a third of individuals, or 36 percent, are not aware of any action steps they can take to decrease their risk of developing colon cancer such as taking periodic screenings, eating healthy, engaging in physical fitness, keeping a healthy weight, shunning smoking and only drinking alcohol moderately.


About 13 percent of research participants cited a colonscopy as a major health prevention step. Of all of the participants, more than half or 67 percent never scheduled or followed through with a colonoscopy.


Most or 99 percent do not know that calcium can assist in maintaining colon health. Worse still, just two percent of women connected the consumption of calcium to keeping the colon healthy and decreasing the danger of developing colorectal polyps.


In fact, about 16 percent of women are not informed about the health benefits of calcium. Less than a third or 31 percent link calcium to the prevention of osteoporosis and a similar percentage or 36 of women do not identify calcium with bone health.


Many patients or about 71 percent do not take calcium supplements. Still, most or 68 percent of women and 61 percent of men reveal that they would take supplements other than a multivitamin to more directly impact colon and bone health.


High Risk of Illness


Roughly 90 million individuals face the risk of developing colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of death nationwide. It is predicted that the disease may cause nearly 60,000 deaths and another 150,000 individuals will be diagnosed with colon cancer.


Gender does not affect risk: both men and women are at risk for colon cancer to age 50.


The odds of developing colon cancer increase if a person has a family or personal history with the disease, inflammatory bowel disease, colon polyps, breast cancer or glandular cancer.


Pro-active Colon Health


Organizational research further finds that colorectal cancer can be reversed 90 percent of the time with early detection.


To begin, you must consult with your primary care physician about your risk, stool testing and colonoscopy. You should also discuss with family members to learn if any relative has endured polyps or cancer of the colon, rectum, breast or a gland.


Additionally, you should schedule and follow through with colorectal screenings starting at age 45 or earlier, especially if colon cancer or cancer of any organ runs in the family.


Aside from consultation and screenings, you ought to also maintain a low-fat, high-fiber diet of produce and whole grains, practice physical exercise, keep a healthy weight and prevent smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.


Research About Calcium As Key To Colon Health


If you have originally been diagnosed with polyps, it is best to discuss with your doctor about taking calcium as a supplement to avert the recurrence of colon illness.


Research shows that the mineral is critical to maintain colon health. Some research has revealed that patients could see a significant difference in a matter of nine months.


A study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that taking two calcium tablets of roughly 1,200 mg per day cuts back on the danger of recurrence of colon polyps, which leads to colon cancer.


Similarly, another study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute followed the correlation between calcium and colon cancer and revealed a substantial reduction in risk.


In the study, participants took 700 to 800 mg of calcium per day and watched their risk of colon cancer plunge compared with their peers who took fewer than 500 mg per day and did not.


In yet another report, the Journal of National Cancer Institute showed that calcium and vitamin D work together to scale back the risk of colon cancer.


As a result, gastroenterologists routinely advise patients to take 1,200 mg of calcium per day, possibly in the form of two tablets to preserve colon health.



  • American Cancer Society, Detailed Guide: Colon and Rectum Cancer, What Are The Key Statistics for Colon and Rectum Cancer? CRI/content/CRI_2_4_1X_Whatasp?rnav=cri


  • Baron, J.A., Beach M. et al. Calcium Supplements for the Prevention of Colorectal Adenomas. New England Journal of Medicine, 1999; 340: 101-7 (clinical study).


  • “HHS Urges Colorectal Cancer Screenings to Save Lives,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, March 13, 2002, 2002pres/20020313.html



  • C. Willett et. al., “Calcium Intake and Risk of Colon Cancer in Women and Men,” Journal of The National Cancer Institute, March 20, 2002.