NYC Gastroenterologist & Gut Health Expert

How to Prevent Inflammation in the Colon: Avoiding Colon Cancer

Colon cancer is near and dear to my heart. My mom was diagnosed with colon cancer and this really drove my desire to become a gastroenterologist. I knew my risk for getting colon cancer was now higher and I would need a colonoscopy earlier than usual. If you have a family member with colon cancer and want to decrease your risk with things YOU CAN CHANGE, read on:

Floss - How in the world is flossing connected to colon cancer? A bug called Fusobacterium nucleatum was found in actual colon cancer tumors. This bug doesn’t even usually live in the colon. Where does this bug usually live? In dental plaque. Yep, in our mouths. We can’t be sure yet if Fusobacterium actually causes colon cancer, but I’ll do my part to floss and get my teeth cleaned every 6 months. Now there are these cool flossers out that are quite addictive. I can’t use them because they don’t reach all four of my wisdom teeth.

Eat more fermentable fibers – These types of foods are gobbled up by the bugs in the colon, which then produce short chain fatty acids (SCFA). If you read anything about the microbiome, this buzzword comes up over and over again - short chain fatty acids. SCFAs help with regulating our immune system, supporting the growth of good bugs, and promoting an anti-inflammatory state. Where to find them? Oats, apples, apricots, cherries, oranges, carrots, banana, plantain, onion, garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, just to name a few. Check out my Insta for a yummy plantain pancake recipe. 

Decrease red meat and processed meats - The data shows increased risk of colon cancer in populations who eat more red meat (beef, lamb, pork, veal, goat, venison) and processed meats (hot dogs) 

Regular exercise reduces your risk for colon cancer. Obesity, smoking and alcohol use all increase your risk for colon cancer.  These four really apply to many diseases, so not surprisingly they also apply to colon cancer risk.

Get the colonoscopy - I forced my older brother to get his. Just do it. If you have family members with colon cancer, this is really the only way to get those polyps (growths that can turn into cancer) removed and prevent colon cancer. 

For those with family members with colon cancer, the guidelines are not straightforward as to when you have to start getting colonoscopies. It depends who in the family was diagnosed and how old they were. Ask your doctor where you stand. 

For those who are not at high risk for colon cancer (don’t have Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, family/personal history of polyps/colon cancer, genetic syndromes called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or Lynch syndrome/hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer AKA HNPCC, or radiation to the belly) the American Cancer Society changed the age to start routine colon cancer screening to 45 in 2018 because of the rising rates of colon cancer seen in younger people.

Sam Nazareth