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What causes colon cancer?

Colon cancer is, first and foremost, a lifestyle-related disease About 112,000 people are diagnosed with colon cancer each year in the United States alone—and the numbers are growing.

All cancers are formed by changes or mutations in cellular DNA. With colon cancer, these mutations allow the malignant (cancer) cells in the host tissue of the large intestine to grow uncontrollably.

Underlying cause

According to Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Otto Warburg, there are many secondary causes of cancer (often referred to as risk factors) but only one underlying cause of all cancer—oxygen deficiency to the cells. He discovered that whereas normal body cells require oxygen for respiration, cancer cells survive on the fermentation of sugar.

Warburg further states that the primary reason for cellular oxygen deprivation is toxemia, the accumulation of acid and other metabolic waste surrounding the cells. Toxemia affects cell-water turnover—limiting the excretion of toxins from inside the cells and inhibiting nutrient absorption.

Risk factors

The highest risk factors for colon cancer are alcohol and tobacco, according to Hiromi Shinya, MD, America’s pre-eminent gastroenterologist and inventor of the colonoscopy process. The other key risk factor includes a diet that is high in animal fat and sugar and low in fiber.

Chronic dehydration and enzyme deficiency due to a lack of whole, fresh foods in the diet are also important factors. People who are obese or over age 50 are more likely to have colon cancer, as well as those with diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease.

Impaired immunity

Many cancer specialists believe that the immune system effectively deals with malignant cells all the time, day in and day out. In fact, according to Patrick Quillin, PhD, and others, the average adult gets six bouts of cancer in a lifetime. Yet most people never know they have it because the immune system manages it below the level of dis-ease in the body.

However, when the immune system is severely impaired due to poor diet, lack of exercise, high levels of mental or emotional stress, exposure to environmental toxins, or when other common risk factors come into play, the cancer cells can take over and begin to form a mass. Where the cancer cells accumulate and grow has much to do with the accumulation of toxins and nutrient deficient cells in the body.

Tumor growth

It stands to reason that cancer in the colon forms because of an unhealthy state within the large intestine. Most colon cancers are initiated as polyps or small benign growths (tumors) that may grow into malignant colon cancers over time. This process could take months, years or even decades before any symptoms may appear. Some common types of polyps include:

Inflammatory polyps: often appear after colon inflammation (colitis) and may become cancerous

Adenomas: are usually removed during colonoscopy but can become cancerous if undetected

Hyperplastic polyps: rarely become cancerous


Many medical specialists believe that after polyps or other tumors become malignant, the cancer cells may travel through the lymph system or blood to other parts of the body. This process is called metastasis. However, some cancer specialists don’t necessarily agree that cancer “spreads” from one localized part of the body to another.

Dr. Shinya writes: “The appearance of cancer somewhere means that most likely there are cancerous cells that have not yet grown into a tumor in other parts of the body. . . . Cancer is a full body disease that affects the body as a whole.”

Thus, any effective colon cancer treatment program should include dietary and lifestyle changes to improve immunity and the internal environment of the body.

References: What is colon cancer?
Shinya, Hiromi, MD; The Enzyme Factor; 2005
Quillin, Patrick, PhD, RD, CNS; Beating Cancer with Nutrition; 2005
Anderson, Mike; Healing Cancer from Inside Out; 2009


  • Norma Erickson, Healthy Living Examiner 5 years ago

    Excellent article, Nancy! So many diseases are being linked to lifestyle choices; you have outlined the connections to colon cancer so anyone can understand how critical their everyday decisions can become in the long run.

  • Nancy Hearn, CNC 5 years ago

    Norma, thank you for taking the time to read the article and share your feedback.

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