Colon cancer is currently the third most common cancer in America and is becoming more prevalent in younger people. Colon cancer is difficult to detect in the early stages, which may explain why it is also the third leading cause of cancer deaths. Researchers noticed the trend of colon cancer diagnosis in adults under the age of 50 and began to ask why. You may not be surprised to learn that their research led to food as the main culprit. Diet plays a much bigger role in your life than simply fueling your body with energy. If you are not careful, you may find that your food consumption is threatening your health and risk for colorectal cancer.
Dr. Kimmie Ng from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute led the study that determined the role food plays in the risk and development of colon cancer. Dr. Ng and her team studied 1,023 stage III colon cancer patients in a chemotherapy clinical trial after their tumors had been removed. Patients were asked to keep a food log during the trial and the researchers reviewed each patient, and his or her food log, shortly after beginning chemotherapy as well as six months after completing treatment. The types of food each patient consumed led researchers to zero in on dietary insulin load as the key indicator of cancer recurrence. They found that patients with a high insulin load were more likely to develop another tumor or even face death as a result of colon cancer. While this study was referring to recurring cancer it strongly ties in to long standing thought that diet plays a crucial role in the development of cancers, particularly colon cancer.
What Does This Mean for Me?
Dietary insulin load evaluates the amount of food you consume as well as the insulin index—which indicates how much the insulin in your blood elevates after you ingest the food. This means that cancer is not caused by a specific kind of food, but rather the effect that food has on raising or lowering your insulin levels. Dr. Ng discovered that insulin has a unique property that can promote the growth of a tumor and cause cancer to progress. This solidifies what you may already know—your food choices can either raise or lower your risk for cancer diagnosis. This means you have more control over your fate than you think. By avoiding foods that raise your insulin levels, you may protect yourself from a future cancer diagnosis, or the recurrence of a cancerous tumor.
Foods that Raise and Lower Insulin Levels
You may be familiar with the foods that equate to high insulin load because, unfortunately, it represents the common diet in the United States. Carbohydrates, foods that are highly-processed, or high in sugar and fat top this list. This includes potatoes, yogurt, milk, bread, breakfast cereals, and red meat. These are foods that must be eaten in moderation and if you are already at risk for colorectal cancer, may need to be avoided completely. Instead, your diet should include leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables, and nuts. Replace a high-carb diet with proteins and healthy fats. Consider adding cinnamon to add flavor to your coffee and oatmeal rather than sugar. Along with adjusting your diet, avoid a sedentary lifestyle and exercise regularly to regulate your insulin levels and help protect your GI tract from cancer.
Because colorectal cancer is difficult to detect in the early stages, many people diagnosed with colorectal cancer have a tumor that has already metastasized. This is why regular screening is necessary—to catch the development of cancer as soon as possible or prevent it from forming altogether. While there are new at-home tests available, the best, most effective form of testing is a colonoscopy. Dr. Islam is the first GI specialist in Lubbock to offer an Open-Access colonoscopy that allows you to skip the traditional pre-op visit. The American Cancer Society now encourages all adults to schedule a colonoscopy at 45 years of age, unless you have a family history of colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy is your best chance of discovering the threat of cancer early enough to ensure a 90% chance of curing colorectal cancer. If you have questions about your risk of colorectal cancer, or if you need to schedule a colonoscopy, make an appointment at Dr. Sameer Islam today.