Colon cancer

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Colon cancer forms in the tissues of the colon, the longest part of the large intestine. Colon cancer is also referred to as colorectal cancer -- cancer that starts in either the colon or the rectum. Colon cancer and rectal cancer have many features in common.

Why should I be aware of this?

  • Colon cancer accounts for 14 % of all deaths resulting from cancer, making it the second most common cause of cancer death in the US.
  • Colorectal cancer is the third most common amongst newly diagnosed cancer cases.
  • People with a family history of colon cancer may be able to reduce their risk of developing the disease with a few simple dietary changes.
  • Early detection of colorectal cancer helps in better managing the disease.

How does this affect me?

  • In the year 2002, colorectal cancer was the third and fourth most common cancer in females and males, respectively, worldwide.
  • Its prevalence is second only to that of breast cancer, with an estimated 2.8 million persons alive with CRC within five years of diagnosis.
  • The highest incidence rates occurred in North America, Australia, Western Europe and Japan.
  • The incidence tends to be low in Africa and Asia and intermediate in the southern parts of South America.
  • Geographic differences for colorectal cancer are probably explained by dietary and other environmental exposures.
  • A higher risk of colorectal cancer was found in subjects consuming a diet poor in fiber and rich in meat and fat.

All about colon cancer

Colon cancer is a common type of cancer in which there is uncontrolled growth of the cells that line the inside of the colon or rectum. Colon cancer is also called colorectal cancer.

  • The colon, also known as the large intestine, is the last part of the

digestive tract.

  • The rectum is the very end of the large intestine that opens at the anus.

Where Does Colon Cancer Begin?

Colon cancer begins on the inner surface of the colon or rectum. Virtually all colon cancer develops from mushroom-like growths that can grow on the inside wall of the colon.

Who is at risk?

A person is more likely to develop colorectal cancer in following cases:

  • Diet high in fat
  • Diet low in fruits and vegetables
  • Diet comprises well-cooked, fried or barbecued meats.
  • More than 2-3 servings of red meat in a week.
  • Smoking
  • Drink more than one alcoholic drink a day
  • Does not exercise
  • 50 years old or older
  • Family member had polyps or colorectal cancer before
  • Chronic inflammation of the colon such as “Ulcerative Colitis”, “Crohn’s Disease” or “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”.
  • Incidence of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cancer of the uterus in the family.


The symptoms of colon cancer can be confused with those of a number of digestive disorders. If a person has these symptoms he may either have colon cancer or some digestive disorder. It is better to consult a doctor if a person has any of these below mentioned symptoms.

  • Bleeding from the rectum.
  • Changes in bowel habits which change from diarrhea to constipation and back.
  • If the stool is unusually narrow.
  • Pain in the abdomen or rectum
  • A feeling that a bowel movement cannot be completed
  • Unexplained weight loss, anemia, paleness, fatigue, or a yellowish coloring of the skin or whites of the eyes.

What can I do?


  • Take a daily multivitamin with folic acid or foliate.
  • Exercise
  • Eat less red meat, just 2-3 servings per week. Red meat includes beef, pork and lamb.
  • Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Eat deep fried food less often, and eat less fatty foods.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Drink less than one alcoholic drink per day


  • Scientists also have found that low foliate in the diet increases the risk of developing colon cancer in adults. [1]
  • Those who had consumed diets higher in processed meats showed a greater risk of developing recurrent colorectal cancer. Those with diets high in certain white meats, like chicken, were less prone to this risk.[2]
  • A seven-year study led by Dartmouth Medical School researchers shows that a daily dose of aspirin can be effective in reducing the risk of benign tumors of the colon that can develop into cancer if left in the bowel. [3]
  • Calcium supplements moderately reduce the risk of recurring polyp growth in the colon and appear to reduce the risk of colon cancer, according to a new national study.[4]
  • Eating fruits and vegetables was not strongly associated with decreased colon cancer risk, according to a study.[5]
  • Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center are beginning a study to look at whether diet can impact a person’s risk of developing colon cancer. Specifically, the researchers will compare a Mediterranean diet – high in olive oil, nuts and fish – with a standard healthy eating plan to see if it prevents colon cancer.[6]

See also


  • What Causes Colon Cancer?
  • What Is Colon Cancer?
  • Who Is Likely to Get Colorectal Cancer?
  • What is Colon Cancer?


  1. New Evidence On Folic Acid In Diet And Colon Cancer
  2. Eating Chicken May Reduce Your Risk Of Colon Cancer
  3. An Aspirin A Day May Keep Colon Cancer Away, Dartmouth Researchers Find
  4. Study: Calcium Supplements Appear To Protect Against Colorectal Cancer
  5. Fruits And Veggies Not Likely Linked To Colon Cancer Risk
  6. Can A Mediterranean Diet Help Prevent Colon Cancer?