March's Colon Cancer Month, the Felix Burda Foundation is showing a healthy way of life. Because active prevention is proven to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Now every third person is confronted with the diagnosis of cancer in the course of his life. However, the risk of getting sick can be significantly reduced by eating well and exercising regularly. This is especially true for colon cancer. For the primary prevention of tumors, physical activity and sport are very important.
Sport minimizes the risk of colon cancer
In particular, the risk of colon cancer decreases with regular physical activity by about one fifth, as shown by a meta-analysis of a total of 19 cohort studies, published in the US journal Colorectal Disease. According to another review, the risk of illness decreases by up to 50 percent for a sports person. This could also be proven by a meta-analysis of the Sport University Cologne. One possible cause of this effect is the reduced duration of food in the intestine, which shortens the contact time with potentially carcinogenic substances.
Regular exercise also affects carbohydrate and fat metabolism, as well as the concentration of various hormones and messengers associated with the degeneration of cells. At the same time, physical activity promotes the immune system and contributes to mental well-being. In addition, the increased energy expenditure during physical activity helps to reduce excess weight.
Role of overweight
Obesity, especially with accumulation of fat in the abdominal area, is considered to be a sufficiently secure risk factor for colorectal cancer. About eleven percent of all intestinal cancer cases are attributed to this. Scientists at the German Institute for Nutrition Research in Potsdam were able to show a correlation between the waist-to-hip ratio and the colorectal cancer risk.
Similar to the Body Mass Index (BMI), an elevated value of this Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR) is a sign of obesity, especially for fat accumulation on the stomach. A WHR above zero means that the abdominal circumference surpasses the circumference at the hip. In both men and women, the risk of colorectal cancer increases by 50% from the smallest to the largest WHR. Excessive dietary calorie intake therefore has a negative effect on the risk of colorectal cancer indirectly due to being overweight.
Eating habits under the magnifying glass
The European-wide EPIC study with nearly 500, 000 participants from ten different countries also showed that some eating habits have a direct effect on the risk of colon cancer. A high intake of processed meat products (eg sausage) means a nearly 50 percent increased risk of colorectal cancer. In unprocessed "red" meat, so meat from beef, pork, sheep or game, this effect is slightly lower: The consumption of up to 70 grams of red meat per week does not seem to have any influence on the colorectal cancer risk. However, if consumption increases by 100 grams per day, the risk of colorectal cancer increases by about 17 percent.
Poultry meat or fish have no negative impact on the risk of colon cancer. Frequent fish consumption, according to the results of the EPIC study, may even reduce the risk of disease. The question as to which ingredients actually cause a damaging effect in the meat is still a matter of controversy among experts.
An important trigger may be the type of preparation, but also the relatively high iron content, which in conjunction with nitrate compounds from the meat could increase the rate of cell division in the upper cell layer of the intestine and thus promote the development of degenerated cells. Fish, on the other hand, may protect against cancer because of its high content of long-chain, polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids.
Fruits and vegetables in the diet supply us with important ingredients that also have cancer-preventive effects. In addition to vitamins and minerals and secondary phytochemicals such as polyphenols or carotenoids, which intercept oxygen radicals in the body, suppress inflammatory processes and thus protect against cell damage. Flavonoids, which are contained in apples, among others, support the intestinal cells both in the degradation and in the defense against toxic substances.
Observational studies have taught that folic acid can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. A long-term intake of a folic acid-containing multivitamin preparation caused a reduced risk of disease. However, this is not a general recommendation to derive dietary supplements.