What is colon cancer?
Colon cancer is a type of cancer affecting the colon, which is the longest part of the large intestine and the lowest part of the digestive system. The colon serves to extract water and salt from solid wastes before waste moves into the rectum and anus where it goes out of the body. In colon cancer, the cells of the colon grow out of control and spreads into other parts of the large intestine. Majority of colon cancers come from small benign tumors called adenomatous polyps that form on the inner walls of the large intestine. These tumors may transform into malignant cancers later on if they are not removed by colonoscopy. Once the tumor becomes malignant, there may be many complications which may arise.
Malignancy results from the migration of cancerous cells to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. These cancerous cells then grow on some places of the body to invade and destroy healthy tissue. This process is termed as metastasis and may be difficult to treat.
There are several risk factors for colon cancer. One is the presence of polyps. Precancerous polyps can predispose to colon cancer. The most common types of polyps are adenomas, hyperplastic polyps, and inflammatory polyps. Adenomas are polyps that can become cancerous unless they are removed during surgery. Hyperplastic polyps are polyps that rarely become colon cancer. Inflammatory polyps usually occur after colon inflammation. Damages or mutations in the DNA can also predispose one to have colon cancer. Another risk factor is age, as most people who have colon cancer are over the age of 50 years old. Other predisposing factors are having a sedentary lifestyle, obesity and tobacco smoking. Diets which are low in fiber and high in calories, red meat and fat can also predispose to colon cancer. Other predisposing factors include diabetes, acromegaly, radiation treatment for other cancers, ulcerative colitis, and Crohn’s disease.
Colon cancer can bring about symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation, changes in stool consistency, narrow stools, rectal bleeding or blood in the stool, pain or cramps in the abdomen, pain during bowel movements, continual urges to defecate, weakness or fatigue, unexplained weight loss, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and iron deficiency (anemia). If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it can bring about other additional symptoms which are related to the site of cancer spread.
Colon Cancer Can Be Prevented By Synthetic Triterpenoids
A recent study has shown that synthetic triterpenoids, a class of small antioxidant molecules, can prevent colon cancer associated with colitis. The findings were published in the early June edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation. These synthetic triterpenoids are able to affect colon cancer in two ways. First they inhibit inflammation, which can contribute to cancer formation and progression. Second, these molecules increase 15-hydroxyprostaglandin dehydrogenase (15-PGDH), a gene product which when present at high levels can help protect against colon cancer. This study showed in mice that were genetically engineered to have inflammation-driven intestinal neoplasia, oral administered triterpenoids increased survival. Triterpenoid molecules also suppressed intestinal epithelial neoplasia by decreasing production of inflammatory mediators and increasing expression of colon-cancer-suppressing 15-PGDH. In normal mice, triterpenoids prevented the development of inflammation and colon cancer.
The researchers are looking forward for more studies that can further elucidate the chemopreventive effect of synthetic triterpenoids on colon cancers.
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