BENGALURU: Bowel cancer is the third most common type of cancer among men and the second most common cancer in women across the globe. Even though the incidence of bowel cancer cases was less in India in the past, the number of patients has been increasing day by day with more prevalence among the young crowd. Doctors blame obesity as one of the major reasons for bowel cancer. The changes in food habits and lack of physical exercise and leading a sedentary lifestyle have increased the risk factors in recent days and are leading to bowel cancer.
Bowel cancer occurs when some of the cells in the colon or rectum have extra growth. The Western forms of diets are typically high in fat and low in fibre and can increase the Body Mass Index (BMI) and Waist Circumference, thus resulting in bowel cancer. Also, obese people are often found to have increased blood insulin levels.
According to studies, India is home to the second highest number of young people with obesity. Almost 49% people in the metro cities have been found to be obese with their BMI being 25 and more and 24% people are in overweight category with the BMI ranging between 23 – 24.9. These statistics indicate the scary truth of unhealthy eating habits and following a low to moderate sedentary lifestyle. Youngsters fall prey to obesity early due to their ignorance towards following a healthy diet, hectic work schedules, erratic work shifts, and less time to plan on what they eat and consume readily available junk food. It is important to understand the ill effects of unhealthy diets and food habits. A few of the factors that cause more harm and lead to obesity include:
Junk food: Junk food has become an inevitable part of diet routine, given that they are cheap, tasty and easy to have. However, instead of adding any benefits to health, they only add extra calories to our bodies.
Insulin: Insulin is a hormone that is responsible for allowing glucose in the blood to enter cells providing them with the energy to function. Insulin plays an effective role in obesity. One of the best ways to lower your insulin is to cut back on simple or refined carbohydrates while increasing fiber intake.
Sugar: Sugar when consumed in excess contributes to weight gain. Added sugar is half glucose, half fructose. People consume glucose from a variety of foods, including starchy foods, but the majority of fructose comes from added sugar. Excess fructose intake may cause insulin resistance and elevated insulin levels. It also doesn’t promote satiety in the same way glucose does.
Sedentary Lifestyle: Spending too much time being a couch potato and using electronic gadgets results in reduced physical activity. This can lead to increase of body mass index.
Breast Feeding: Breast feeding can protect children from becoming obese to a great extent. Mothers, especially working, find it difficult to breast feed their children for a longer duration as prescribed by the doctors today. Breast milk has been proven to be the best food for children under one year.
Obesity imposes a greater risk of bowel cancer mainly for men and premenopausal women. Other symptoms of bowel cancer include diarrhea or constipation, lasting abdominal pain, blood in stool or rectal bleeding, weakness and loss of weight.
An obese person is under the risk of not only bowel cancer but also many other health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke etc. Managing obesity helps in leading a healthy life and prevent bowel cancer risk.
Also, avoiding physical inactivity and smoking can further reduce the risk of bowel cancer among youngsters. Since almost 50% of the chances of having bowel cancer are attributed to dietary factors, it is important to increase the intake of fruits, vegetables and fiber. Reducing the consumption of red meat will also help in avoiding bowel cancer.
(The writer is a Surgical Oncologist,BR Life SSNMC Hospital)