What is colon cancer?
The colon is the longest part of the large intestine and the lowest part of the digestive system. Water and salt are extracted from solid wastes, prior to the waste moving through the rectum and exiting the body through the anus. Most colon cancers originate from small non-cancerous tumors (adenomatous polyps) that form on the inner walls of the large intestine. Some of these tumors may grow malignant and then travel through the blood and lymph systems, spreading to other parts of the body. These cancer cells can grow in several places, invading and destroying other healthy tissues throughout the body.
Colon cancer and diet
In order to absorb the fats we eat, out liver makes bile acids which is squirted into the intestine where they chemically modify the fats eaten so that they can be absorbed. The presence of bacteria in the intestine turn these bile acids into cancer promoting substances called secondary bile acids. Not only do meats contain a substantial amount of fat, but they also foster the growth of bacteria that cause carcinogenic secondary bile acids to form. Additionally, the cooking and processing of meat, leads to the release of certain carcinogenic compounds (HCA – heterocyclic amines & PAH – polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) that increase overall cancer and specifically colon cancer risk.
Vegetarian and Vegan Diets comprising high fibre goods such as grains, vegetables and fruits offer a measure of protection against breast cancer. Fibre greatly speeds the passage of food through the colon (effectively removing carcinogens), while also changing the type of bacteria present in the intestine reducing the production of carcinogenic secondary bile acids. Plant based foods are also naturally low in fat and rich in antioxidants and other anti-cancer compounds.
Scientific evidence: Colon cancer and diet
Research that has been conducted on the linkage between meat, dairy and colon cancer have found
- Higher intake of animal products (meat and dairy) linked with higher colon cancer risk
- An increase in dietary fibre intake (present only in plant based foods) linked with reduced risks of colon cancer
Details of the same (including the research methodology, key findings and a link to the original study) are available in the resource tab below.