Colon cancer accounts for around 8% of all cancer cases. They also estimate that in the year 2016, a total of 134,490 new cases of colon cancer will be diagnosed and around 49,190 deaths will occur as a result of this cancer. The death toll of colon cancer is not as high as with numerous other types of cancer, with 65.1% of patients surviving for five or more years after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Furthermore, they also report that as much as 4.4% of the worldwide population will be diagnosed with rectum and colon cancer at some point in their lives and more than one million people are living with this cancer at any given point within the United States.
What Causes Colon Cancer?
The specific cause of colon cancer is unknown, but doctors and medical scientists have been able to point out several contributing risk factors that may increase the chance of an individual developing this kind of cancer. Mayo Clinic explains that doctors have linked the development of colon cancer to errors developing in the DNA of healthy cells within the colon. They go on to explain that there are two common forms of colon cancer that can be inherited:
- Familial Adenomatous Polyposis, also simply referred to as FAP
- Hereditary Nonpolyposis Colorectal Cancer, also simply referred to as HNPCC
Other risk factors have also been identified by medical scientists. Firstly, it is reported that the risk of developing this cancer increases with age, as the majority of cases reported accounts for patients aged 50 years or older. They also report that African-American individuals seems to be at a higher risk of developing cancer in their colon when compared to other races. Furthermore, additional risk factors have been reported to include:
- Disease that causes chronic inflammation in the colon. This includes Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
- A diet that contains a large amounts of fats, but a low amount of fiber is also reported to increase the risk.
- A lifestyle that does not involve regular physical exercises and activity is at a higher risk when compared to a lifestyle that includes regular physical exercises.
- Patients who use a large amount of alcohol are also more prone to develop colon cancer, when compared to individuals who does not consume a large amount of alcohol.
- Patients diagnosed with diabetes, as well as patients with an insulin resistance, is reported to also be at a higher risk of developing this cancer.
Vitamin A, Retinoic Acid and Colon Cancer
While scientists have focused on finding effective treatment options for cancer patients in the past years, they only recently discovered a potentially benefit of Vitamin A in patients diagnosed with colon cancer. The study was first conducted among a group of laboratory rats, after which they moved towards stored human tissue that was affected with cancer. Numerous findings were observed during these studies and they have provided an opportunity for scientists to possibly find a new way to effectively treat cancer affecting the colon of human beings.
The Connection Between Vitamin A and Retinoic Acid
Before we dive into more details about the study, let’s take a quick look at what the connection between vitamin A and retinoic acid is. This is an essential part of the studies as they have found retinoic acid to be beneficial, which is known as a metabolism of vitamin A. News Medical explains that retinoic acid is a natural compound that is derived from vitamin A, as well as from retinol. They go on to explain that vitamin A is a nutrient that cannot be produced by the body itself and can only be obtained from food sources. They also report that the liver has the highest concentrations of vitamin A, which is also where this vitamin is stored in the body.
Retinoic Acid and Colon Cancer
Science Daily reports findings of a recent study conducted by the Stanford University Medical Center. The study was published on 30 August 2016 and provided evidence that retinoic acid may be beneficial to treat and prevent cancer in the colon. While the study focused on monitoring the effects of this compound among a group of rats, the researchers involved in the study later concluded that a deficiency of retinoic acid is also present in infected human tissue that has been stored. Here are the key findings of the study:
- Mice with inflamed colons, but not colon cancer, did not have this reduced amount of retinoic acid levels.
- Mice with colon cancer had a higher level of a specific protein that is known to degrade retinoic acid.
- Mice with colon cancer also had a lower level of a specific protein that is known to synthesize retinoic acid.
- When researchers increased the amount of retinoic acid in the intestines of infected rats, the tumor burden among the animals became less severe.
This new discover that linked retinoic acid to a reduced risk of developing colon cancer may also pose as an effective remedy to treat patients with colon cancer. While these studies were performed among laboratory mice infected with cancer in the colon, the results provide evidence that an opportunity exists to further investigate the benefits of retinoic acid in patients with colon cancer. The next step is to determine whether similar effects can be observed in the human body.