Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Clear Night 59° Clear
News >  Features

Ask Dr. K: Colon cancer result of behavior and genes

Anthony L. Komaroff Universal Uclick

DEAR DOCTOR K: During a screening colonoscopy, my doctor found a polyp in my colon. Does this mean I have cancer?

DEAR READER: Colon polyps are common, non-cancerous growths of tissue inside the colon, or large intestine. Some of them are benign. However, other colon polyps can progress into colon cancer. These are called adenomatous polyps.

Overall, only a small percentage of adenomas progress to cancer, but it’s not currently possible to accurately predict which ones will do so. So generally they are removed.

A colonoscopy is designed to find growths on the colon wall before they have a chance to turn into cancer. During this screening test, your doctor inspects your colon with a colonoscope – a thin, lighted, flexible tube fitted with a video camera.

If a polyp is not removed, it will continue to grow larger and possibly become cancerous. The larger the polyp, the greater the chance it contains cancerous cells. However, it usually takes several years for a polyp to change to a cancer.

In the meantime, certain steps may help lower your risk of colon cancer:

• Eat less meat. Eat minimal red meat – especially processed or cured meats.

• Follow a healthy diet. Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

• Maintain a healthy weight. Extra fat, especially around the waist, increases your chances of developing colon cancer.

• Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk of colon cancer.

You may sense a contradiction. I said that colon cancer is the result of certain genetic changes – but I also said that it is caused by behavior (eating red meat, smoking, becoming overweight). So which is it?

It’s both. The behaviors affect the genes. They produce mutations in the genes, causing them to be inappropriately turned on and off. You should do everything you can to minimize your risk for this cancer.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter

Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.