Nobody ever wants to hear the “C” word come out of their doctor’s mouth during a visit, but unfortunately occurrences are still fairly high. If you take out skin cancer, colon cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in women and men in the United States according to the American Cancer Society. Identifying early warning signs then, could be the difference between a healthy life or one having to deal with the ramifications of trying to beat a cancer.
Outward signs of being healthy like a normal body weight give us one picture of our overall status, but what is going on inside will usually tell us a truer picture. According to a recent study, even normal-weight women may be at greater risk for colon cancer if they have certain metabolic characteristics, such as high blood sugar or high blood pressure. Colon cancer screenings are typically only performed after you hit a certain age, but if there were other signs that could help identify high risk at an earlier age, it could potentially help save many lives.
So What Do I Need To Watch?
For the study researchers looked at over 5,000 women who had been enrolled in the 15-year Women’s Health Initiative study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The study involved normal-weight postmenopausal women, aged 50 to 79. “Normal weight” was determined by their BMI (which is unfortunately a flawed measurement and only uses height and weight, not the more accurate body composition). Again, just looking on the surface may not always tell the true picture, as approximately thirty percent of normal-weight adults worldwide are believed to be metabolically unhealthy!
One-third of the women in the study were deemed metabolically unhealthy, meaning they had two or more risk factors of metabolic syndrome. Characteristically, this is determined by having 3 or more of the following conditions:
- High blood sugar
- High blood pressure
- Elevated triglycerides
- Low level of HDL (the “good” cholesterol)
- A large waist measurement
For this study, the researchers didn’t include waist measurement as one of the factors. What they found was that even with normal weight, women with metabolic syndrome had a 49 percent increased risk for cancers of the colon, rectum and sigmoid colon. While it was not determined what exactly caused the risk, it looks like poor lifestyle habits that lead to those undesirable lab values could almost double your risk!
We know that diet is a major player in all of those risk factors listed, so a good first step would be to get tested and know exactly where your blood values lie. After that, addressing any needs for high or low levels can be done successfully with the right dietary approach and proper guidance to get your body truly healthy and out of the high-risk category. So not only will you look “normal” on the outside, but your internal health will be echoing that image as well!