Women are More Likely to Develop Aggressive Colon Tumors



A new study finds colon cancer cells grow differently in men and women, and women are more likely to develop more aggressive colon tumors.

Men have a higher rate of colon cancer, but women have a higher incidence of right-sided colon cancer. Tumors on the right side of the colon are associated with a 20 percent increased mortality rate than left-sided tumors.

Colon Cancer Growth Rate Differs Between Genders

This new research provides helpful insight into what drives the difference in colorectal cancer risk. The study team utilized innovative techniques called “metabolomics” to analyze the hormones people produce, the cellular processes of digestion, and the bacteria that lives in the colon.

By comparing normal colon tissue to tissue samples from males and females with colon cancer, the team could examine differences in micronutrients like amino acids and sugars which transform during metabolism.

Women with colon cancer on the right side displayed elevated levels of fatty acids and amino acids like asparagine and glutamine, which are associated with aggressive colon tumor growth. Men with colon cancer have increased levels of lactate, which creates energy through a unique pathway.

This research suggests colon cancer growth rate is different in males and females and may require different treatments to effectively stop cancer growth.

Caroline Johnson, Ph.D., assistant professor of Epidemiology at Yale School of Public Health, was co-senior author of the study. “With this new information and many promising leads, our work is helping to determine what can be done to prevent worse outcomes for women who develop this deadlier form of colon cancer," she said. "This work will benefit all women, but particularly black women, who are at higher risk for colon cancer compared with other races or ethnic groups."

Dr. Johnson hopes to develop a biological indicator with her co-senior author, Sajid Khan, to predict the formation of right-sided colon cancer, which is more aggressive and more challenging to identify in early stages compared to left-sided colon cancer.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Colon Cancer

Only a small percentage of colon cancer is linked to heredity. You can create healthy habits to reduce your risk for colon cancer by:

  • Eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins
  • Limiting red meat and processed meats
  • Quitting smoking
  • Improving fiber intake (35 grams of fiber daily for men and 30 grams of fiber daily for women)
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Limiting alcohol

Make an Appointment for a Colonoscopy

Most colon cancers are preventable with regular colonoscopies. The American Cancer Society recommends all adults who are at average risk for colon cancer get screened beginning at age 45. Call your gastroenterologist to make an appointment for a colonoscopy. If you receive a clean bill of health, you likely will not have to repeat the procedure for ten years.

To find a fellowship-trained gastroenterologist near you, click here for more information. We will connect you to a GI center in your home town, and you can call to make an appointment today for a life-saving screening.