March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in developed countries, with 142,000 new cases and 51,000 deaths in the US in 2012.
Colorectal cancer – cancer of the rectum and colon – affect both men and women. The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age, with 90% of cases occurring in people over 50 years. Up to 60% of colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented with colorectal cancer screening, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Some people are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than others. These risk factors include:
- Genetics. A personal of family history of colon polyps or colorectal cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease. People with ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease have an increased risk, which increases with the duration of the disease
- Diet. High intake of fat, alcohol, or red meat
- Lifestyle. Lack of physical exercise
- Diabetes. People with diabetes have a 30-40% increased risk
- Race. The highest incidence of colorectal cancer is in African-American men and women
Vitamin D and colorectal cancer
Colorectal cancer was the first cancer thought to be associated with vitamin D levels. Studies have since shown that vitamin D sufficiency can be an important factor in reducing your risk for colorectal cancer.
In an initial meta-analysis based on 535 cases of colorectal cancer, patients with vitamin D levels greater than 33 ng/ml had a 50% lower incidence compared to those with levels less than 12 ng/ml. The largest study on vitamin D and colorectal cancers, to date, confirmed these results.
The Vitamin D Council has reported on the research before: Review finds association between colorectal cancer and vitamin D
What should I do?
Join thousands of patients, survivors, medical professionals, and care givers in spreading awareness about colorectal cancers by wearing blue, holding fundraising or educational events, and by talking to friends and family about the importance of screening. As we said before, screening after the age of 50 is one of the easiest ways to reduce your risk. It’s also important to encourage loved ones who have an increased risk to make healthy lifestyle choices. To further decrease your risk, the Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with vitamin D3.
To learn more about how you can get involved in National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, visit: http://ccalliance.org/awareness_month/index.html.
Take a look at our colorectal cancer infographic for some quick info on vitamin D and colorectal cancer. Remember to share with friends and family! View the infographic on Facebook to share online.
Ghandini S. Boniol M. Haukka J, Byrnes G, Cox B, Sneyd MJ, Mullie P, Autier P. Meta-analysis of observational studies of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels and colorectal, breast and prostate cancer and colorectal adenoma. Int J Cancer. 2011.