What Your Belly Fat Can Tell You About Your Future Cancer Risk

Carrying around too much extra weight is a risk factor for several types of cancer, and research has suggested that where you store that extra weight may affect your risk, too. A new study shores up that idea, suggesting that excess belly fat can predict cancer risk just as well as overall body mass index (BMI).

The new paper, published in the British Journal of Cancer, combined data from seven previous studies including more than 43,000 older adults. The participants were followed for about 12 years, during which more than 1,600 were diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer. Being overweight or has been linked to 13 types of cancer, including colorectal, breast, and pancreatic.

Overall, the researchers found that every standard-deviation increase in waist circumference—equal to about 4.3 inches—was associated with a 13% increased risk of obesity-related cancers. In comparison, every standard-deviation increase in BMI was associated with an 11% increased risk.

RELATED: 10 Reasons Your Belly Fat Isn’t Going Away

The difference between the two measurements was not statistically significant, suggesting that both are equally good indicators of cancer risk. In fact, all four measures of body size that the researchers tested—BMI, waist circumference, hip circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio—predicted similar risk increases. This is the first study to compare these measurements, in relation to cancer risk, in a standardized way.

In a separate analysis of just , increases in BMI, waist circumference, and hip circumference were associated with 16%, 21%, and 15% increased risk, respectively. In other words, the authors say, being overweight or obese appears to raise the risk of cancer—no matter how you measure it.

Scientists believe there are several possible ways obesity can fuel cancer growth. Excess weight can trigger inflammation throughout the body, as well as an increase in sex hormones and insulin-related growth hormones, all of which have been linked to cancer.

And it’s not surprising that fat stored around the abdomen seems to be especially dangerous; it’s also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and premature death.

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Lead author Heinz Freisling, scientist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, says the new study shows that where someone carries fat is just as important for cancer risk as how much fat they have. For some cancers, the findings suggested that waist circumference might be even more important than BMI—but the number of people with those specific cancers was small, he says, and more research is needed to show whether this is really the case.

The study focused on middle-aged and older men and women, mainly because BMI is thought to become less accurate at predicting disease risk as people age. “In addition to knowing one’s BMI, paying attention to body fat distribution is particularly important in older adults,” Freisling says.

But the connection between belly fat and cancer likely applies to younger individuals as well, the authors write in their paper. “Overall, our results underscore the importance of avoiding excess body fatness for cancer prevention,” they concluded, “irrespective of age and gender.”

Deadly Gut Bug on the Rise: Should You Worry?

A potentially life-threatening germ called Clostridium difficile (or C. diff) is on the rise in the United States, and the bug’s mortality rate seems to be rising, too, according to a report in the June issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The somewhat reassuring news is that it’s unlikely that “people will be dropping dead of C. diff in the streets,” says lead researcher Marya Zilberberg, MD, of the University of Massachusetts.

The not-so-reassuring news is that this germ is getting more serious. C. difficile causes watery diarrhea, fever, loss of appetite, and abdominal pain, as well as a more serious life-threatening inflammation of the intestines called colitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Zilberberg and her colleagues found a 23% rise in C. diff hospitalizations each year between 2000 and 2005. Cases most commonly occur in older, sick patients who have been taking antibiotics.

The new study showed a doubling of the number of cases in people over 45 (they also increased in those ages 18-44, but to a lesser extent). Overall, the number of adults with the infection increased from 134,361 in 2000 to 291,303 in 2005.

“If you get an antibiotic for some other ailment—for pneumonia, say—other bugs that keep it down die off in response to the antibiotics,” says Dr. Zilberberg. “This one takes over, and there are certain strains that can wreak havoc with your gut.”

In the study, the case-fatality rate—the percentage of people infected with the bacteria that die—increased from 1.2% to 2.3%. Dr. Zilberberg says that some of the those people may have died of other causes but just happened to be infected with C. difficile at the time. In comparison, people hospitalized with pneumonia have a case-fatality rate of 4% to 5%, she said.

But the CDC’s Cliff McDonald, MD, PhD, says the germ has a case-fatality rate of about 6% in some hospital outbreaks (and in one case, as high as 15%).

There’s a specific strain of C. diff, called NAP1, that may be behind the higher fatality rate, says Dr. McDonald, a medical epidemiologist. And there are some signs that it’s getting more difficult to treat.

“Should be we concerned? Yes, we are concerned,” he says.

What to do about it? To avoid C. difficile, your best bet is to steer clear of antibiotics unless they are truly necessary.

“Antibiotics are lifesaving when necessary; I don’t want to close the door on antibiotics,” says Dr. Zilberberg. However, they should be used in a “sober and judicious way,” she says.

The germ can often spread in hospitals from patient to patient or when health-care workers don’t wash their hands.

“If you end up in the hospital, you’ve got to make sure that the people around you are using good hygiene practices,” says Dr. Zilberberg. “It can be spread from person to person; it can be spread through inanimate objects, like stethoscopes, for example.”

Infections can occur outside the hospital. And they’re starting to show up in people who don’t have typical risk factors, such as long-term antibiotic use. About 1 in 5 people who are infected outside of hospitals haven’t taken antibiotics, according to a Connecticut study published in April 2008.

“If someone develops diarrhea that lasts for more than three days, they should seek medical attention,” says Dr. McDonald. Other germs could be the cause, but C. difficile “is entering into the realm of possibility.”

C. diff is still treatable with existing medications (though your doctor might tell you not to share a bathroom with other people until your treatment is completed).

“Unfortunately, the main drugs we have to treat it with are antibiotics,” he says. “So we’re treating a disease that was caused by antibiotics in most cases with more antibiotics, which is a problem.” About 20% of people will have a recurrence of the germ after treatment.

Colon Cancer Death Rates Falling Faster in Northeast than in South

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By Anne Harding

THURSDAY, July 7, 2011 (Health.com) — Stepped-up colon-cancer screening has helped slash death rates from the disease across the U.S. in recent years, but not all regions of the country have benefited equally. According to a new study from the American Cancer Society, the drop in death rates has been considerably faster in the Northeast than in the South.

In the early 1990s, the states with the highest rates of colon-cancer deaths were clustered in the Rust Belt, Mid-Atlantic region, and New England. Within a decade, the study shows, the highest rates could instead be found in the Deep South and Appalachia, thanks to sharp declines in the Northeast.

Death rates in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Maine, and Connecticut all fell by 33% or more during that 10-year span, whereas the decline was 15% or less in six southern states, including West Virginia, Louisiana, and Alabama, according to the study.

In Mississippi, the decrease in the death rate wasn’t even statistically significant, making it one of only two states (along with Wyoming) to see no measurable improvement.

Related links:

Colon Cancer: What Increases Your Risk?

10 States That Consume Too Much Fast Food

Which Colon-Cancer Screening Test Should I Have?

“The main factor is really [that] screening rates are lower in the South compared to the Northeast,” says Ahmedin Jemal, PhD, the lead author of the study and the vice president of surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, in Atlanta.

Southern states are generally poorer than northern states, and they tend to have more residents without health insurance who may forgo the regular screening that experts recommend for people over age 50, Jemal explains. And as the study notes, Southerners are also more likely to be obese and to smoke—both known risk factors for colon cancer (also known as colorectal cancer).

The new study, which appears in the July issue of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, follows on the heels of a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that highlighted nationwide gains in the fight against colon cancer.

Between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of U.S. adults ages 50 to 75 who had ever had a colonoscopy or other screening test increased from 52% to 65%, according to the report. The benefits of the wider screening could be seen in the national death rate from the cancer, which declined from 19 to 16.7 per 100,000 inhabitants over the same period. (Jemal and his colleagues used some of the same data sources as the CDC researchers.)

The importance of screening is borne out by the state data in the new study, says D. Kim Turgeon, MD, an associate professor of gastroenterology at the University of Michigan, in Ann Arbor. In states that showed reductions in mortality rates of 20% or more between 1990 and 2007, she notes, at least 55% of the target population was screened in 2004.

“All of the states that have really changed their mortality a lot are screening more of the population,” she says.

Next page: Poverty a key factor

Poverty is a key factor in the regional disparities seen in the study, says Mira Katz, PhD, an associate professor of health behavior and health promotion at the Ohio State University, in Columbus.

Not only do poor people have less access to health care, Katz says, but they may also be getting confusing messages about screening. Colonoscopies can be prohibitively expensive if not covered by insurance, but many doctors believe they are the only acceptable option and fail to suggest fecal occult blood tests, a more affordable alternative that uses stool samples.

“You have [a] disconnect between what people can afford because they’re uninsured, and what providers will recommend,” Katz says. “The best colon-cancer screening test is the one that gets done.”

The new findings provide more evidence that colon-cancer screening works, but for many people, the tests remain a tough sell, says Leonard Saltz, MD, head of colorectal oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, in New York City.

“It is hard to convince the average American to go to the doctor when he or she is healthy—or to convince insurers that money spent on screening now not only saves lives but saves money later,” he says.

4 New Ways to Get Screened for Colon Cancer

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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month so the spotlight is once again on screening for this often preventable cancer.

Let’s face it, no one likes getting a colonoscopy, even though it’s one of the best screening tests for colorectal cancer.

But if everyone followed the recommended screening, 60% of all deaths due to colorectal cancer could be prevented.

Given that 51,000 people die of the disease every year, that’s A LOT of people. (About 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed every year, according to the National Cancer Institute.)

Here are some ways researchers are trying to improve on the standard colonoscopy. None of these eliminate some of the less pleasant aspects of colonoscopy–the icky bowel prep needed to empty the colon before the procedure, for example.

But they may make the screening more accurate. “Even in expert hands, there are still significant abnormalities that are missed at times,” says Durado Brooks, MD, director of prostate and colorectal cancers for the American Cancer Society.

Robotic colonoscopyConventional colonoscopies involve a doctor threading a colonoscope–basically a long, flexible tube with a camera on the end—through the large intestine. One major advantage is that doctors can immediately remove any suspicious-looking growths or polyps. But the procedure is prone to human error. It’s relatively rare, but occasionally the equipment can poke a hole in the intestine. Robotic colonoscopies, on the other hand, rely on gears to mechanically move the scope through the bowels. “One of the hopes with robotic colonoscopies is to decrease pressure on the colon and decrease the possibility of perforation,” says Dr. Brooks. And they have another advantage in that they do not require sedation. Robotic colonoscopies are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but aren’t yet standard treatment.

Full-spectrum colonoscopyConventional colonoscopies afford doctors a 170-degree view of the colon, says Seth Gross, MD, a gastroenterologist and assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. But a new instrument in the works would widen that view to 330 degrees because there is a camera not only on the tip of the scope, but also on each side. The full spectrum endoscope is being developed by NYU in conjunction with an Israeli technology company and should be available later this year.

Balloon colonoscopyThe colon is full of twists and turns and folds where polyps or cancers can hide. A balloon colonoscopy uses a colonoscope with an inflatable balloon at the end which mechanically flattens the folds of the colon as the device moves up the intestine, says Dr. Gross. This allows the doctor to see more of the colon. The device may be commercially available later this year, says Dr. Gross, but would still require sedation. EndocuffThe Endocuff works much like a balloon colonoscopy. Instead of a balloon, though, the Endocuff is a disposal cap which slips onto the end of the colonoscope and helps pull back the folds as the scope moves through the intestine. “It flattens out the folds,” says Dr. Gross.

Most of these technologies are still in the development and evaluation phase. “None have been proven to be more effective than simply a diligent and attentive colonoscopy,” Dr. Brooks says. “The good news is that colonoscopy if it is performed in a careful, thoughtful manner is a very effective tool not only to find cancer but also precancerous lesions and remove them to prevent cancer from occurring.”

And there are a number of alternatives that are just as effective as a colonoscopy, Dr. Brooks says. These include a simple stool test and a “virtual” colonoscopy (CT scan).

“It’s great that there may be some [screening] enhancements on the horizon but right now we’ve got a number of very good tests,” Dr. Brooks says. “If we just use the technology that we currently have available, we can cut both the number of cases of colorectal cancer in half as well as the number of deaths in half.”

Read more:

12 Best Ways to Prevent Colorectal Cancer

These Tests Can Save Your Life

20 Best Foods for Fiber

Colon Cancer Rates Are Rising in Men and Women Under 50

By Steven ReinbergHealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 25, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Colon cancer rates are rising among men and women under 50, the age at which guidelines recommend screenings start, a new analysis shows.

One in seven colon cancer patients is under 50. Younger patients are more likely to have advanced stage cancer, but they live slightly longer without a cancer recurrence because they are treated aggressively, the researchers reported.

“Colon cancer has traditionally been thought of as a disease of the elderly,” said study lead author Dr. Samantha Hendren, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“This study is really a wake-up call to the medical community that a relatively large number of colon cancers are occurring in people under 50,” she added.

However, Hendren said it’s too soon to say whether colon cancer screening guidelines should be altered to reflect that trend.

In the analysis, colon cancer among younger patients was often found at an advanced stage, meaning the disease has spread to lymph nodes or other organs. “Part of the reason for this is that these young patients are often diagnosed only after their cancers start to cause symptoms, such as anemia, bowel bleeding or a blockage in the colon,” Hendren explained.

Doctors should be on the lookout for these warning signs of colon cancer, she added.

Not all bowel bleeding is caused by cancer, she said. “Bright red bleeding with a bowel movement is usually due to hemorrhoids or fissures, but dark blood or blood mixed with the stool is a warning sign,” Hendren said.

People with a family history of colon cancer and others who are at higher risk should begin screening earlier than the age of 50, she said. “This is already recommended, but we don’t think this is happening consistently, and this is something we need to optimize,” she added.

The report was published online Jan. 25 in the journal Cancer.

Dr. Andrew Chan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said the reasons for the increase in colon cancer among younger adults isn’t known.

“It is unexplained,” he said. “It’s not simply a change in diagnoses, it’s a very real increase. There may be an effect of our environment that could be contributing to the increase.”

Smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity are all risk factors for colon cancer, as is a poor diet, Chan said. “When we are faced with patients who have many of these elements, we should think more about the potential of them developing colon cancer at an earlier age,” he said.

For the study, Hendren and her colleagues culled federal government data on nearly 260,000 patients diagnosed with colon cancer between 1998 and 2011.

Of these patients, nearly 15 percent were younger than 50. These patients were more likely to be diagnosed with advanced cancer and more likely to have surgery than older patients (72 percent versus 63 percent). Radiation therapy was also used more often in younger patients than in older patients (53 percent versus 48 percent), the researchers found.

Younger patients lived a little longer without a cancer recurrence, even though they tended to have more advanced cancer, Hendren said.

For patients under 50, about 68 percent survived five years, while about 67 percent of the patients 50 and older survived five years, she said. “It looks like patients’ young age helps them in their cancer treatment and survival,” she added.

These findings raise the question of whether screening for colon cancer should begin at an earlier age, Hendren said. “This would be a big and costly change, and I don’t know whether it would help more people than it would hurt, so a lot of research would be required to understand this before any changes should be made,” she said.

Chan noted that although the incidence of colon cancer is increasing among people under 50, the risk is still low. “I don’t think the data at this point support expanding screening to younger age groups,” he said.

Hendren said that “the cancer community needs to prepare for the increasing number of very young colorectal cancer survivors who will need long-term support to cope with the physical and psychological consequences of their disease and treatments.”

More information

Visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute for more on colon cancer.


New Study Finds Another Great Health Perk for Coffee Drinkers

By Steven ReinbergHealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 1, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Drinking coffee may cut your risk of colon cancer by as much as 50 percent, a new study suggests.

The more you drink, the more you may reduce your risk—and it makes no difference whether the coffee is regular or decaf, researchers said.

“The protective effect is not caffeine, per se, but probably a lot of other antioxidant ingredients in the coffee that are released in the roasting process,” said senior researcher Dr. Gad Rennert. He is director of the Clalit National Israeli Cancer Control Center in Haifa, Israel.

These findings can’t prove that coffee reduces the risk of colon cancer, only that coffee is associated with a reduced risk, Rennert said. However, the association appears strong, he added.

“For years we were not sure if coffee was dangerous. Today we have evidence that that’s not the case, that actually coffee is good for you,” he said.

For the study, Rennert’s team—which included researchers at the University of Southern California’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center—collected data on more than 5,100 men and women in northern Israel who were diagnosed with colon cancer. These patients were compared with more than 4,000 men and women with no history of colon cancer.

All of the participants reported how much coffee they drank, including espresso, instant, decaffeinated, and filtered coffee. They also reported risk factors for colon cancer, such as family history of cancer, diet, physical activity, and smoking.

The researchers found that having one to two cups of coffee a day was linked to a 26 percent reduced risk of colon cancer. For those who drank more than 2.5 cups, the risk was reduced by as much as 50 percent, the findings suggested.

The risk for colon cancer seemed lower no matter what type of coffee people drank, Rennert added.

The findings of this study are consistent with other similar studies, said Susan Gapstur, the vice president for epidemiology at the American Cancer Society.

“However, studies that collect information on dietary factors, including coffee, from healthy people and then follow them to see who goes on to develop cancer, do not tend to show a significantly lower risk of colon cancer in coffee drinkers compared with nondrinkers,” Gapstur said. “Therefore, the findings of this study should be interpreted with caution.”

Dr. Andrew Chan, an associate professor in the department of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, said, “There is mounting evidence suggesting an association between coffee and lower colon cancer risk.”

If the protective agents in coffee could be identified, they might be used to prevent or treat colon cancer, speculated Chan, who is also an associate professor of medicine and gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“In addition, coffee might provide us with some clues about how cancer develops and could help us understand colon cancer in general,” he said.

The report was published April 1 in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. Nearly 5 percent of men and just over 4 percent of women develop the disease over their lifetime.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 95,000 cases of colon cancer and 39,000 cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed this year.

More information

For more on colon cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.


Women Who Have Ovaries Removed May Have Colon Cancer Risk

By Amy NortonHealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 12, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Women who have their ovaries removed may have a higher-than-average risk of developing colon cancer, a large study suggests.

Researchers found that among nearly 196,000 Swedish women who’d had their ovaries removed, the risk of eventually being diagnosed with colon cancer was 30 percent higher than the norm for women their age.

The women had their ovaries removed for noncancerous conditions, so a history of ovarian cancer would not explain the findings, the researchers said.

Still, the link does not prove that ovary removal contributes to colon cancer risk, cautioned Mia Gaudet, strategic director of breast and gynecologic cancer research for the American Cancer Society.

The researchers were not able to account for a number of critical factors, said Gaudet, who was not involved in the study.

For one, she said, women who’d undergone ovary removal (“oophorectomy”) may have had higher rates of colon cancer screening.

“Oophorectomy, itself, is tied to more frequent contact with the health care system, including higher rates of cancer screening,” Gaudet said.

Beyond that, she said, there was limited information on the women’s weight, and no details when it came to their diets or use of hormone therapy.

Lead researcher Dr. Josefin Segelman agreed that the study had limitations.

However, it is biologically plausible that ovary removal could affect colon cancer risk, according to Segelman, a colorectal surgeon at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.

Other research, she explained, has suggested that sex hormones influence colon cancer development: Some studies have linked hormone replacement therapy after menopause and birth control pills to a decreased colon cancer risk, for example.

And in lab studies, estrogen has been shown to inhibit colon cancer cells from growing, Segelman said.

But Gaudet cautioned that the connection between hormones and colon cancer is unclear. Studies have been “mixed,” she said, as to whether a woman’s natural estrogen levels, or hormone replacement therapy, are related to her odds of developing the cancer.

The latest findings, reported recently in the British Journal of Surgery, are based on records from women who’d had gynecologic surgery at some point between 1965 and 2011. The women had either had one or both ovaries removed, or had undergone a “possible” oophorectomy.

The study authors noted that the latter group included women who’d had a hysterectomy, but no clear indication that the ovaries had been removed, too. However, the procedures are commonly done together.

Overall, 1.6 percent of all women in the study were diagnosed with colon cancer over the next 18 years. That was 30 percent higher than would be expected for women their age, Segelman’s team said.

Women who’d had both ovaries removed had a 2.3-times higher risk of rectal cancer than those who had only one ovary removed, the findings showed.

The researchers were able to account for a few other factors, such as whether the women had a diagnosis of diabetes or health problems related to smoking or heavy drinking—habits that are connected to a heightened colon cancer risk.

The investigators also looked at whether the women had a “diagnosis” of obesity, but did not have any other information on weight and height.

Once those factors were considered, women who’d had both ovaries removed or who had undergone a possible oophorectomy generally had a higher cancer risk than women who’d had just one ovary removed.

Often, an oophorectomy is done to treat ovarian cysts, Gaudet explained. But some women have them removed to lower their risk of ovarian cancer—including women who carry the BRCA gene mutations that greatly increase the lifetime risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

Segelman said her team had no genetic information on the study group, so it’s not known how many women had their ovaries removed because of a BRCA gene mutation.

For now, both Segelman and Gaudet had similar advice for women: If your doctor recommends oophorectomy, discuss the reasons and the potential risks versus benefits.

And as far as colon cancer prevention, Gaudet suggested “focusing on the risk factors you can control.”

“The American Cancer Society recommends eating a healthy, largely plant-based diet, limiting alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight,” she said. “And definitely don’t smoke.”

More information

The American Cancer Society has more on colon cancer.


Is It Time to Drop the 'No

By Randy DotingaHealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 24, 2016 (HealthDay News) — New research suggests that the grueling process of preparing for a colonoscopy may not have to be endured on an empty stomach.

Colonoscopy patients typically have to forgo all solid foods and go on a clear-liquid diet while taking laxatives the day before their procedure. However, this new study found that those who ate a limited amount of low-fiber foods were happier and didn’t suffer any negative effects during their exam.

In fact, their bowels were actually better prepared for the procedure than those of the patients who stuck to traditional clear-liquid diets, the researchers said.

“The assumptions about no food on the day before colonoscopy are probably not correct. The clear-liquid diet is very restrictive, and probably too restrictive,” said study author Dr. Jason Samarasena. He is an assistant clinical professor of medicine with the division of gastroenterology and hepatology-interventional endoscopy at the University of California, Irvine.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 134,000 cases of colorectal cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year. But while colonoscopy screening is recommended at age 50 for most adults (and even earlier for those at high risk), many don’t undergo the procedure. The required preparation is simply too much for some to bear, the researchers said.

The clear liquid is designed to keep the colon clear during a colonoscopy. “Things that are hard or fibrous like seeds can clog the scope,” explained Dr. Theodore Levin, chief of gastroenterology with Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Walnut Creek, Calif.

Enter the idea of a low-fiber diet. The concept is to allow patients to eat foods that aren’t likely to stick around in the bowel and disrupt a physician’s examination of the intestines.

In the new study, researchers assigned 83 patients to undergo a colonoscopy after a day on a clear-liquid diet or a day in which they were allowed to eat a small number of low-fiber foods like macaroni and cheese, yogurt, white bread, lunch meats, and ice cream. The patients ate about 1,000 to 1,500 calories from a combination of fat, protein and carbohydrates.

The researchers found that more of the patients on the low-fiber diet were adequately prepared for a colonoscopy than those who took clear liquids only. And, those in the low-fiber group were less tired on the morning of the procedure. Also, 97 percent of those in the low-fiber group said they were satisfied with their diet compared to just 46 percent of those in the clear-liquid group.

Samarasena said the low-fiber food—also known as “low-residue” food—clears out of the colon because it easily liquefies in the digestive system. “The problem isn’t food,” he said. “It’s specifically the type of food that you’ll have on the day before. Things that liquefy quickly will get washed out easily.”

By contrast, he said, high-fiber foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and grains are often undigested when they make their way to the colon, and they can interfere with the examination of the colon.

But why would those who ate food actually have clearer bowels? Eating “probably stimulates more bowel movements the day before the procedure,” Samarasena said. “You’ve started the colon-emptying process with the food that you’ve been eating.”

The study was small, but Samarasena said other research has produced similar results.

Levin, the gastroenterologist, said the study is useful, but patients should talk to their physician before changing their colonoscopy prep.

“It is worth discussing, though,” said Levin, who allows diabetic patients and some others to consider a low-fiber diet.

As for himself, Levin said he’d probably try a clear-liquid diet first, to maximize the chances of a “well-prepped colon,” but “the low-residue diet is worth looking into.”

The findings were to be presented Monday at the Digestive Disease Week conference in San Diego. Studies released at conferences should be considered preliminary until they are published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

For more on colonoscopy prep, visit the Colon Cancer Alliance.


More Americans Under 50 Are Getting Colon Cancer, Study Says

By Steven ReinbergHealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 24, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Although overall colon cancer rates are declining, the rates among Americans under 50 have jumped more than 11 percent in the past decade, a new study finds.

Over the same decade, the number of cancers in those 50 and older fell by nearly 3 percent, the study found.

“Our findings suggest that health care providers should be more vigilant about detecting symptoms in younger patients and also should consider lowering the threshold for colonoscopy screening,” lead researcher Dr. Elie Sutton said during a media briefing. Sutton is a research fellow at Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York City.

“We really don’t know why colon cancer is increasing in younger patients,” he said. “We can speculate that it’s due to increases in inflammatory bowel disease or a change in diet, but really there is no clear consensus on that.”

The researchers also found that colon cancer among those under 50 was often diagnosed when the cancer was already advanced, Sutton said.

About five years ago, a study found a similar trend toward young onset, Sutton said. “Between the time of the previous research and our study, we still have not adequately addressed the risk of colorectal cancer in people under the age of 50. It’s critical that we reverse this trend so that we are able to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, it in all populations, regardless of age,” he said.

Colon and rectal (colorectal) cancer is the third most common cancer, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI estimates there will be more than 134,000 new cases in 2016. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, second only to lung cancer, the NCI reports.

For the study, Sutton and colleagues reviewed data on more than 1 million colorectal cancer cases listed in the National Cancer Database from 2004 to 2013.

While the study found that the number of these cancer cases is rising about 1 percent a year in people under 50, the majority of cases still occur after 50, Sutton said.

These findings mirror those of a study from the Jan. 25 online issue of the journal Cancer. That study found that one in seven colon cancer patients is under 50. Younger patients are more likely to have advanced stage cancer, but they live slightly longer without a cancer recurrence because they are treated aggressively, the University of Michigan researchers said.

The findings from these studies made both research teams wonder if colon cancer screening, which usually starts at 50, might need to begin earlier.

“This is a really important issue because rates of colon cancer are increasing in young adults,” said Rebecca Siegel, the strategic director of surveillance information services at the American Cancer Society.

“People are guessing it has to do with obesity and changing patterns in diet, but we need more research in this area—no one knows why this is happening,” she said.

New screening guidelines that take into account these findings are in the works now, Siegel said.

But even under the current guidelines some people under 50 should have a colonoscopy. These include people with a family history of colon cancer, and parents and siblings who have had benign tumors in the colon, called adenomas or polyps, she said.

The results of the study were scheduled to be presented Tuesday at Digestive Disease Week in San Diego. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

More information

For more about colon cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.


Omega

THURSDAY, July 21, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Colon cancer patients who take in higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, mainly from oily fish, may have better odds of survival, a new study finds.

The study of almost 1,700 American adults with colon cancer was observational, meaning that it can’t prove cause-and-effect. But it did seem to find a benefit from the healthy nutrient.

One colon cancer expert who reviewed the new findings wasn’t surprised.

“We have long suspected the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acid supplementation,” said Dr. Jules Garbus, a colorectal surgeon at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. “This study begins to show a correlation between ‘healthy living’ and reducing death from colorectal cancer.”

In the study, a team led by Dr. Andrew Chan, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, tracked data on 1,659 people diagnosed with colon cancer. During an average follow-up of about 10 years, 561 of the patients died, the researchers reported.

Colon cancer was the cause of death in 169 cases, while other major causes of death included heart disease (153 cases) and other types of cancer (113 cases), the findings showed.

However, patients who consumed at least 0.3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids from oily fish per day after their colon cancer diagnosis were 41 percent less likely to die of the disease than those who consumed less than 0.1 gram per day, Chan’s team said.

The reduced risk was associated with omega-3 from both food and fish oil supplements, but few of the patients used supplements, the researchers noted.

The link between marine omega-3 and lower risk of death from colon cancer was particularly strong for patients who were taller, relatively thin, and did not take aspirin regularly, according to the report.

The study also found that boosting intake of omega-3 by at least 0.15 grams per day after a colon cancer diagnosis was associated with a 70 percent lower risk of dying from the disease, while a reduction in daily intake was associated with a 10 percent higher risk of death from the disease.

The risk of death from all causes was also 13 percent lower in those who increased their intake of omega-3, but 21 percent higher among those who decreased their intake, the researchers said.

One other colon cancer expert stressed that more data is needed to confirm these results.

Dr. Arun Swaminath explained that the study’s data on omega-3 intake came from “food frequency questionnaires,” and these types of studies “have significant weaknesses to the point that some have questioned whether they should be abandoned altogether.” Swaminath directs the inflammatory bowel disease program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

Similar studies into fish oil and heart health initially spurred enthusiasm about the nutrient until subsequent, more rigorous research “punctured the idea that fish oil was good medicine for heart patients,” he said.

“It’s not clear if [Chan’s study] falls into the same trap as previous studies that found similar associations, but didn’t stand up to rigorous scrutiny,” Swaminath said.

However, “if this association does turn out to be true, then it will be great for patients,” he said. “And I see little downside [other than out-of-pocket costs] to adopting this strategy.”

The study was published online July 19 in the journal Gut.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health has more on omega-3 fatty acids.