New Study Says Gender and Diet Influences Colon Cancer Risk



Colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. Even though incidence is decreasing among older adults, colon cancer mortality among Americans under 55 is steadily increasing. Why are younger people dying from colon cancer? Perhaps examining the risk factors and preventive measures can provide a better understanding of why colon cancer is no longer a disease of the elderly.

Some of the main risk factors for colon cancer include obesity, a low-fiber/ high-fat diet and a sedentary lifestyle. New research suggests that gender can also be a factor. For example, recent data found that males who eat a high-fat diet can develop harmful gut inflammation, making them more susceptible to colon cancer.

Inflammation and Colon Cancer Risk in Mice

A multi-institutional research team studied male and female mice to compare the levels of an inflammatory marker associated with colon cancer risk. When the mice ate a control diet, males had higher levels of inflammation.

When the research team fed all mice a high-fat diet, both genders experienced increased inflammation. However, only females had lower inflammation when the team combined exercise with a high-fat diet.

“Taken together, these findings suggest that males respond poorly to a high-fat diet, causing inflammation and increased cell proliferation, making them at greater risk for colon cancer," the research team wrote (Medical Xpress).

How to Eat a Low-Inflammation Diet for Colon Health

Although the study suggests males may be at heightened risk for colon cancer, it’s important to remember that this disease can affect anyone. The American Cancer Society estimates that 53,200 people died from colorectal cancer in 2020, and 3,640 were adults younger than 50.

Preventing inflammation begins with your fridge and not with ibuprofen. Some of the foods that produce inflammation include:

  • Refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta, cereal, pastries and cookies
  • Fried foods, prepared foods, processed foods and foods with preservatives
  • Soft drinks and beverages sweetened with sugar
  • Red meat and processed meat like sausage and hot dogs
  • Shortening, lard and margarine

To reduce inflammation, one of the healthiest eating plans is the Mediterranean diet, which includes lots of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, fish and healthy oils like olive oil and avocado oil. As you shop at the grocery store, look for anti-inflammatory foods such as:

  • Leafy green vegetables like kale, spinach, and mustard and collard greens
  • Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel which are high in omega-3 fatty acids
  • Tomatoes
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Almonds, walnuts and other nuts (Harvard Health)

Schedule a Colonoscopy to Prevent Colon Cancer

While a low-inflammation diet can help prevent colon cancer, the best way to lower your risk is a colon cancer screening. There are many methods of screening, but the gold standard is colonoscopy. Unlike a stool test, a colonoscopy allows your doctor to inspect the entire colon and remove any precancerous growths called polyps.

The American Cancer Society recommends that all adults at average risk for colon cancer begin screening at age 45. However, if you are at high risk for colon cancer (history of colon polyps, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease and certain genetic conditions), or if you have digestive symptoms, you should get screened earlier. Use our Locator Tool to find a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist in your area.