The words are hard to come by reflecting upon the premature departure of Chadwick Boseman, I will always cherish his memory “WAKANDA Forever. “
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a disease that disproportionately affects the Black community. According to the American Cancer Society, African Americans are 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other ethnic groups. Current reports are showing an increase in CRC among men and women under the age of 50. Statistics report by the year 2030, 90 percent for young adults between the ages of 20 to 34 will acquire CRC diagnosis. The exact cause of this rise in CRC among young adults is unknown; however, the NIH states that 35% of these cases strongly associate with heredity.
Acknowledging the mental anguish of hearing a diagnosis of colon cancer resonates with me having to witness both parents receive this diagnosis at different stages of their lives. The American Cancer Society reports, 5 to 10 percent of all CRC is due to genetics. Genetic studies reveal a type of mutation or genetic change in the colon, passed on from parent to child. Having both parents’ first-degree relatives) with a previous diagnosis of colon cancer increases the risk of development for individuals as twice as high compared to the general population. I submit and often refer to my current physiological status as the color and style of my inheritance genes for which I have no other choice but to wear.
On the contrary, although significant, genetics is only one of the contributing risk factors for CRC. Evidence-based studies show that nutrition, sedentary lifestyle, smoking, and alcohol use are also contributing factors. No one can change the type of genetics they are born with; however, lifestyle changes such as what we eat, limiting- exercise, alcohol use, and smoking are changeable. Prevention is the best defense in guarding our colon against CRC, and the initiation of the following lifestyle changes is imperative.
Nutrition: you are what you eat; every single morsel we ingest interacts with our colon. Studies show that the ingestion of a large number of red meats, especially grilling, BBQ, and charring increases risk factors for the development of CRC. The consumption of “processed” meat, such as beef, pork, poultry, lamb, and fish, also increases the risk. The processing of meats is transforming meat from a natural state to a processed state by curing, salting, smoking, fermenting, and adding chemical preservatives. The American Cancer Society has classified all processed meats as a Group 1 carcinogen, meaning it will cause cancer under no uncertain term. An intake of 2 oz. A day of processed meats will increase the risk of CRC by 18%.
The Mediterranean Diet is the most powerful defense mechanism we have to fight CRC. The diet is rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, providing a large amount of Phyto-nutrients, which keeps the body healthy and strong. The diet is low in red and processed meats, refined starches, and saturated fats. The research concludes the Mediterranean diet as having the best combination of foods for preventing CRC.
Alcohol: American Cancer Society reports that alcohol use increases the risk for CRC. Studies are showing those who drink three and a half drinks per day increases the risk of developing CRC by 50 percent compared to non-drinkers. It is best not to drink; however, AICR recommends limiting alcohol consumption to no more than two drinks per day for men and one per day for women.
Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of (CRC) through the inhalation of chemicals and toxins, producing free radicals. Free radical damages the body’s DNA is leading to mutations of healthy cells. Free radicals can cause the development of precancerous polyps in the large intestine leading to (CRC). Studies show people who smoke are 23 percent more likely to die or have their cancer return within three years than nonsmokers who had colon surgery.
Exercise: A study in the World Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology notes physical activity may prevent approximately 15% of colon cancer. Additional studies show regarding patients with stage 4 CRC, an improvement in fatigue, sleep quality, and quality of life in patients after eight weeks of home-based exercise programs.
Guarding the colon is a lifelong challenge that we cannot afford ever to let our guard down.