Colorectal Cancer Prevention: Five Things You Need to Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 8, 2016

Jeffrey Meyerhardt

Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt

Contributor: Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, is clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

While one of the most common cancers in both men and women, colorectal cancer remains a very preventable disease, explains Dr. Meyerhardt.

“Most of these cancers develop over a period of years,” said Dr. Meyerhardt. “While not preventable in everyone, the earlier you detect the disease, the more curable it is.”

Below are five tips from Dr. Meyerhardt on ways to reduce your risk.

1. Live a healthy lifestyle.

“There are various dietary factors that play a role in colorectal cancer,” explained Dr. Meyerhardt. “The one that’s the most consistently shown in studies is red and processed meat.” To lower your risk, Dr. Meyerhardt recommends eating fewer than two servings of red or processed meat per week. This includes foods such as steak, hamburgers, and hot dogs.

Read More »

The Link between Processed Meat and Cancer: What You Need to Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 10, 2015

Recent research says that eating processed meat products, such as hot dogs and bacon, can increase a person’s risk for colorectal cancer.

Recent research says that eating processed meat products, such as hot dogs and bacon, can increase a person’s risk for colorectal cancer.

Eating processed meat products can increase a person’s risk for colorectal cancer, according to a report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO). Processed meat is classified as meat that has been salted, cured, fermented, or smoked to add flavor or preserve the meat. These meats include ham, bacon, sausages, corned beef, hot dogs, canned meat, and beef jerky.

In its findings, the IARC also determined that red meat is “probably carcinogenic to humans,” based on “limited evidence.” Red meat consumption was mainly linked to an increased risk for colorectal cancer, but it also had associations with pancreatic cancer or prostate cancer. Red meat includes beef, veal, pork, mutton, lamb, or goat.

Read More »

Colorectal Cancer: Do Men and Women Experience Different Symptoms?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 26, 2014

Men and women generally exhibit the same colorectal cancer symptoms.

Contributor: Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, is Clinical Director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

While there are slightly more incidences of colorectal cancer in men (71,860 new cases projected in the U.S. in 2014) than women (65,000), both men and women generally exhibit the same symptoms of the disease, explains Dr. Meyerhardt.

“Many patients don’t have symptoms, but they’re diagnosed because they get a screening colonoscopy,” says Dr. Meyerhardt. Common symptoms for patients who do show signs of colon or rectal cancer include blood in the stool, changes in bowel habits, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain. Some patients also have symptoms related to anemia, including increased tiredness or shortness of breath, or may be found to be anemic from routine blood work.

The risk factors for colorectal cancer — which include age, family history of the disease, or having Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis — are also similar for men and women, Dr. Meyerhardt says. However, some lifestyle choices also can increase risk. These include obesity, lack of physical activity, low vitamin D, and consuming a high amount of red meat, which may differ between men and women.

Read More »

Colorectal Cancer: Five Things You Need To Know

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 4, 2014

Thanks to increased awareness, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years.

Contributor: Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt is the clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in the U.S., with about 134,490 new patients diagnosed in the U.S. in 2016. But thanks to increased awareness about screenings, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years.

“For the most part, colorectal cancer is a curable and preventable disease,” says Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, clinical director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center. “It is a cancer where we have very good data that shows screening prevents disease and saves lives.”

Read More »

Preventing Cancer’s Return

Posted by Blog Administrator May 21, 2012

Dr. Ligebel helps Sylvia develop an exercise routine

Dr. Jennifer Ligibel (right) is one of numerous researchers at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center looking at the impact of exercise and other lifestyle factors on cancer recurrence.

While certain habits are known to increase risk of developing cancer, little information has been available about the effect of lifestyle after cancer diagnosis – until recently. Mounting research is showing that diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors can make a difference in the chances of cancer recurrence and survival after cancer develops.

“We are seeing that the choices people make can influence results,” says Dr. Jeffrey Meyerhardt, Director of Clinical Trials in the Center for Gastrointestinal Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center.

Studies led by Dr. Meyerhardt have found that rates of colon cancer recurrence are lower in people who eat a healthy diet, exercise, and take aspirin. Conversely, a diet high in red meat, refined grains (such as white bread), and sugary desserts may increase risk of colon cancer recurrence.

Research has found that women who are physically active after breast cancer diagnosis have a 30 to 50 percent lower risk of breast cancer recurrence, breast cancer death, and overall death compared with sedentary individuals. Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, a medical oncologist and researcher in the Center for Breast Oncology at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, has explored processes linking cancer and exercise, as well as ways to motivate sedentary cancer survivors to begin exercising.

Read More »