What is Colorectal Cancer (CRC)?

The month of March is National Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Awareness Month. I dedicate this month’s article to all CRC survivors and the loved ones of persons impacted by CRC. This article provides you information about CRC screening, associated risk factors and links to microbiomes.


What is Colorectal Cancer (CRC)?


CRC is cancer that occurs in the colon or rectum. CRC affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. It is often found in persons aged 50 years and older, but it can also be found in younger persons. In the United States, CRC is the third most common cancer for men and women. However, CRC is the second most common cancer for adult Latinas in Pennsylvania.


In terms of death rates, CRC is the third leading cancer killer in the United States for both men and women. However, for Latinos, CRC is the second leading cancer killer in the United States. Latinos have more late-stage diagnoses of CRC, which is more difficult to treat. Early detection of CRC improves survivorship.


Can CRC be Prevented?


The answer is yes. CRC is one of the most preventable cancers. Detection and removal of adenomatous polyps has been shown to reduce CRC incidence and mortality rates. You have several approved options, ranging from take-home fecal blood stool tests done in the comfort of your own home to a colonoscopy done at a medical facility.


Testing can stop CRC before it starts or find it early, when it is likely to be easier to treat. Diet and exercise also play an important role in CRC prevention.


CRC Screening Guidelines


According to current CRC screening guidelines, persons aged 50 years and older should get screened, or screened sooner for persons with a family history of CRC, has had previous polyps removed, are minorities, smoke and/or are obese.


Talk with your doctor about your screening options and needs.


CRC Risk Factors


Modifiable risk factors (things you can change) include: high red/processed meat intake, cooking meats in high temperatures, low dietary fiber intake, low physical-fitness levels, overweight/obesity, smoking and diabetes.


CRC and Microbiomes


The human gut is host to thousands of different microbial species consisting of both “good and bad” members (like bacteria).  It is clear that bacteria in the microbiome play a role in human-cell signaling. This is important for CRC.


There are genetic differences between healthy colon cells and tumor cells from adults with colorectal cancer, and specific tumor mutations are associated with the presence of specific bacteria in the gut.


Diet is known to influence the risk of colon-cancer development, but the exact manner in which diet causes cellular and DNA damage has not been determined.  It is assumed that the diet and resulting intestinal microbiome (gut flora) communities create metabolites that can harm bowel cells and produce DNA damage, leading to cancer development.



Talk with your doctor about ways to lower your CRC risk. CRC screening saves lives. Remember, early CRC detection improves survivorship.


Take care, and please send your questions by email to dr.oralia@gmail.com. Together we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy! ¡Salud! ◆

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