Constipation And Colon Cancer; What’s The Connection?


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Constipation And Colon Cancer; What’s The Connection?

A lot of people worry when they have difficulty passing stool. If the word constipation has come to your mine, you need to know more about constipation (that will, in fact, relieve your stress). Constipation is often wrongly perceived and there are more facts to know about it.

As far as constipation is concerned, regarding whether or not it causes colon cancer, there is strong evidence that it does not. Even though the interrelation between constipation and colon cancer is strong, there is an ongoing debate on what causes what.

In light of recent research, some theories are built, but it would not be fair to state anything clear-cut as the relationship between these two disorders is complicated. To understand this correlation, you need to have an overlook to what extent constipation can be worrisome for colon cancer occurrence.

In short, constipation is a symptom of colon cancer, but it is not clearly understood whether constipation can cause the colon cancer or not. Though, most researchers favor the negative of the statement.

First, Straighten The Facts About Constipation:

Constipation is a really common disorder, being the most common digestive problem in US. But if you are worried for decreased frequency of passing stool as constipation, keep in mind that more than 50% of population do not pass stool once a day. In fact, 95% of adult population has the range of defecation between 3-12 stools a week.

As 3 stools a week is also considered normal. Additionally, as you age, it is more likely that the frequency of defecation decreases. So, there is no need to stress yourself out. Because, this stress can be one of the main culprits in causing constipation. However, consult your doctor, if you suspect your bowel habits getting irregular.

Constipation Does Not Cause Colon Cancer:

It has been a debate of decades to establish the meaningful relationship between constipation being causative and colon cancer as the result. For long, constipation has been considered a cause of colon cancer. This could be true partly because in constipation, the bowel movement slows down. In turn, it causes greater time of interaction between the colon lining and the cancerous particles contained in stool. This hypothesis constructed in the end of 20th century is now refuted. Recent researches indicate no direct link of constipation causing colon cancer (Ford, Reuters Health, New York). They further clear that any past evidences favoring the notion could be the result of poor research quality.

Adding to list, having chronic constipation can, in fact, lower the risk of having colon cancer (Alexander, Gastroenterology Institute, UK). This positive association is observed through colonoscopy (examination of intestine) in the patients, with the chief complaint of constipation, screened for colon cancer risk.

Shared Lifestyle Factors Can Cause Colon Cancer:

Adequate lifestyle factors play an important role in the prevention of diseases. On the other hand, some lifestyle behavior predisposes the individual to certain diseases. Therefore, good lifestyle habits can impact a person’s life in ways more than what can be counted.

Poor eating habits, lack of physical activity and weight gain are the factors that can cause constipation, as well as increase the risks of having colon cancer. It is logical to think that the link between constipation and colon cancer occurrence can be due to the shared lifestyle behavior, rather than the direct link. To decrease the incidence of both the diseases, modify your lifestyle by taking following steps:

  • Exercise:

Engage in regular exercise. Physical activity is believed to reduce the chances of colon cancer by 24% that is almost the one fourth of chances (Wolin, Yan, Lee, British Journal of Cancer, 2009). As far as constipation is concerned, physical inactivity reduces the muscle tone of abdomen as well as bowel. This decreases the peristalsis, which is the normal contraction of gastrointestinal tract necessary for the processing of food and defecation. Exercise has opposite effects that are beneficial.

  • Diet:

Diet has a major role to play in both the diseases of intestine i.e. constipation and colon cancer. Consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed meat like red meat has positive effects on body. This reduces, separately, the chances of having constipation and colon cancer, both.

  • Weight loss:

Obesity is a risk factor for colon cancer. In overweight people, the chances of colon cancer increase by around 20% (Ma Y, Yang Y, Wang F, PLoS One, 2013). Weight gain is also associated with causing constipation. This shows the shared lifestyle can cause any of the two problems. Be it constipation first, proceeded by cancer later in life or vice versa. Therefore, weight control management is crucial for controlling both the diseases.

Constipation Is A Symptom Of Colon Cancer:

Whether there is still confusion about constipation causing cancer or not, researches prove that constipation can be caused by colon cancer. In fact, constipation can be an early symptom of colon cancer.

In colon cancer, constipation can be caused if the tumor presses the nerves in the intestine. This may affect the nerve supply of muscles that do not work adequately. Inefficient working of muscles ultimately causes constipation.

Or in another scenario, that is more likely to happen, the tumor can directly compress the wall of intestine narrowing the passage. Which, in turn, makes it difficult to pass the stool. Or you can say constipation occurs. Basically, when stool passes down in the starting of intestine, it is in a more of liquid state – fluid. As it further moves down, water is absorbed in the intestine along with the salts (for the body requirement) and stool gets harder successively. If the harder stool comes across any obstruction in its pathway like a tumor, it gets difficult to pass it on. This is the reason why constipation can occur in colon cancer. The narrower stools observed in the patients of colon cancer, yet as another sign, can also be caused due to the compression by tumor.

Why Is It Important To Investigate Symptoms Of Cancer:

Don’t neglect constipation, as it can be a symptom of colon cancer. Patients, who get diagnosed at an early stage of colon cancer, have survival rate around 90%. As the disease progresses, survival rate sharply declines. It is difficult to treat colon cancer. The prognosis is poor, once the cancer has spread to other organs. Therefore, it is necessary to investigate the symptoms in yourself. The additional symptoms associated with colon cancer are diarrhea/constipation (change in bowel habits), blood in or around the stool, narrower stool, abdominal bloating, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anemia and jaundice. To know more about the early symptoms of colon cancer, click here. If you suspect any deviation from normal in your body, consult your doctor.

Screening For Colon Cancer:

Unfortunately, there are many symptoms beside constipation that are associated with colon cancer. Apparently healthy individuals can also be suffering from this deadly disease. It is true, as colon cancer does not always strike with symptoms. In fact, in most of the cases, symptoms develop after the disease has already progressed to an advanced stage, making it difficult to treat cancer.

Therefore, regular screening for colon cancer should be done, especially for the people above age 50. In younger populations, with a positive family history of cancer, screening should be initiated at a relatively young age. Screening helps identify the colon cancer at an early stage. If present, that helps in the successful recovery. Consult your doctor for the screening of colon cancer.


There is a strong association of constipation and colon cancer. However, the hypothesis saying constipation can cause colon cancer is now rejected. Presently, it is believed that constipation does not cause colon cancer. On the other hand, colon cancer can cause constipation. In fact, constipation is one of the early symptoms of colon cancer. Moreover, regular screening of cancer should be done with your primary doctor to diagnose cancer in its early stage for prompt intervention and better outcomes.


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