Colon cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, is a malignant tumor that grows in the large intestines. Colon cancer begins as small clumps of cells known as adenomatous polyps which are noncancerous. With the passage of time, these clumps can develop into malignant tumors causing colon cancer. This type of cancer has been ranked as the third commonly diagnosed cancer in America and it causes a large number of cancer-related deaths each year.

Causes Of Colon Cancer

Till today, it is not clear what really causes colorectal cancer. However, specialists believe that this type of cancer occurs when some of the healthy cells in the large intestines develop error in their DNA. Every day, quite a large number of cells wear out or get destroyed and the body works to make new cells to replace them. Sometimes during this process, an error can occur and a newly made cell can begin to multiply uncontrollably causing a tumor. With time, the tumor grows and destroys normal tissues nearby and if no action is taken to stop this process, the cancerous tissues can travel to other body parts and form deposits. This is referred to as metastasis.

Signs And Symptoms Of Colon Cancer

Symptoms of colon cancer are not specific. The symptoms related to cancer can also occur due to a number of different conditions. At its early stage, colon cancer may not show any symptoms and the signs may also vary depending on the where the tumor is located within the colon. Common symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Feeling like your bowel does not empty completely
  • Persistent discomfort in the abdominal, such as pain, gas or cramps
  • Blood in the stool or rectal bleeding
  • Changes in the bowel movement such as constipation, diarrhea or a change in the consistency of the stool that can last for weeks
  • Dark-colored stool

Association Between Diet And Increased Colon Cancer Risk

Studies show that there is an association between diet and an increased risk of cancer. People who consume foods with high fat and low fiber are at higher risks of getting colon cancer. Also, people who move from areas where the diet consists of low fat and high fiber to areas where the typical diet is high in fat and low in fiber have a high risk of developing colon cancer as well. There is no clear explanation why this occurs, however studies are continuing to determine whether a low-fiber high-fat diet causes underlying inflammation of the colon or affects the microbes found in the large intestines that may contribute to cancer risk.

Risk Factors That Increase The Risk Of Colon Cancer

Factors believed to increase the risk of colon cancer include:

  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions: colon diseases such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can increase the risk of colon cancer
  • Old age: Majority of colon cancer patients are older than 50. However, recent studies have shown that younger people are also being affected by this cancer, but it occurs much less frequently
  • Diabetes: Diabetes and insulin resistance have a high risk of causing colorectal cancer
  • A sedentary lifestyle: People who are less active and barely exercise are more likely to develop colon cancer
  • Family history of colon cancer: If your parent, child or sibling has this disease, it is more likely that you may develop it too. The risk is even greater if more than one family member has colon cancer
  • A personal history of polyps: If you have been diagnosed with polyps before, you are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer in the future
  • African-American race: Studies have shown that Africa-Americans are at a greater risk of getting colon cancer than other races

How Calcium Can Help To Reduce Colon Cancer Risk

As mentioned earlier, there seems to be a big connection between diet and colon cancer. Cancer cases continue to increase each year at an alarming rate. Doctors and specialists continue to encourage the public to eat healthy to prevent cancer. Research has shown that there are certain foods that when consumed can reduce significantly the risk of developing cancer, including colon cancer.

Foods rich in calcium are among the foods at the top of the list that people should consume more to prevent cancer. There is solid evidence that shows consuming calcium-rich foods such as dairy products with low fat helps to protect against colon cancer. However, consuming too much calcium poses a danger as well, so this nutrient needs to be consumed in moderation.

People with a high risk of developing colon cancer are encouraged to take calcium in supplement form.  Calcium is believed to interfere with carcinogenesis in the large bowel and when taken consistently for a long time, the benefits of taking calcium last long after.

How Might Calcium Help Prevent Cancer?

It is not clear the exact mechanism by which calcium helps to reduce colon cancer. However, research shows that calcium at the biochemical level helps to bind fatty acids and bile acids in the gastrointestinal tract to from calcium soaps. The calcium soaps reduce the ability of these acids from damaging cells in the lining of the colon. Calcium also cause proliferating colon cells to undergo differentiation or reduce cell proliferation in the lining of the colon.

How The Body Absorbs Calcium From Supplements And Foods

Cellular energy is not required to absorb calcium from supplements and foods. This nutrient is absorbed passively through diffusion between cells. Another way calcium gets absorbed in the body is through intestinal cells by binding calbindin (a transport protein).

How Safe Are Calcium Supplements?

It is safe to take calcium supplements as long as you also eat foods rich in calcium as well. However, ensure that you do not exceed the recommended tolerable upper intake level of 2.5 grams per day. Taking too much calcium can cause prostate cancer in men and may also pose unwanted side effects in the general population. Anyone older than a year can take calcium supplements, regardless of gender. When consuming processed foods, ensure you check the nutritional facts on food labels to determine how much calcium it contains.