Checkup records at an unnamed clinic showed that the age of patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer is going down and it is suspected that a lack of consumption of vegetables is the main cause of younger people developing the cancer, doctors said yesterday.
Pointing to a recent case, Lien An Hospital in Greater Taichung said that a 33-year-old man was suffering from third-stage colon cancer that was only discovered during a routine health checkup, adding that the man had had an imbalanced diet since he was young.
The hospital said that the patient weighed 88kg, was 178cm tall and was considered obese in terms of his body mass index (BMI) ratio, and while the patient considered himself fit and healthy, his wife and mother had felt that his diet was problematic and finally persuaded him to undertake a colonscopy exam.
Though a blood test came out clean, the colonscopy showed a tumor about 4cm or 5cm long, which was later diagnosed as third-stage colon cancer.
The patient did not like vegetables of any kind and would go out of his way to pick them out of his food. Unless he was forced by his family, he would generally eat no vegetables at all, the head of Lien An Hospital, Cheng Nai-yuan (鄭乃源) said, adding that the hospital suspects the cancer was caused by the lack of vegetables in his diet.
A study conducted by the EU last year said that the consumption of about 28.5g of fiber a day is directly proportional to a decreased likelihood of developing colon cancer, lowering the chances by about 30 percent.
Cheng also said that cross-referencing health checkup data from past years showed that where patients were discovered to have developed colorectal polyps, more than 80 percent of these patients were found to have imbalanced diets, which made them more susceptible to developing colorectal cancer.
The detection of colorectal polyps — fleshy growths occurring on the lining of the colon or the rectum that can be either benign or malignant — increase the rate of a person having colon cancer by 30 percent. If left untreated, some polyps develop into colorectal cancer.
The hospital further found that with the current tendency of workers to eat out more often than cooking themselves, their diet does not contain the amount of fruits and vegetables suggested by the Department of Health.
The department advises that five servings of fruits or vegetables be eaten every day, with one serving being equal to the size of a fist.
It said that the common worker only eats 2.7 servings a day on average when eating out.