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Chronic Constipation Can Kill

Tim Boyer's picture

According to a press release issued by the American College of Gastroenterology’s (ACG) 77th Annual Scientific meeting in Las Vegas, researchers have found an association between people who suffer from chronic constipation with an increased risk of developing colon cancer.

A diagnosis of chronic constipation is typically made when a patient has complaints of difficulty with bowel movements that fail to pass resulting in fewer than three bowel movements per week. According to health resources, more than 4 million Americans suffer from constant or frequent constipation. Constipation is a result of stool that becomes dry, hard and compacted, making bearing down a frustrating and painful experience. The physical state of constipated stool is due to the colon absorbing too much liquid from the stool before it has a chance to pass through or due to stool that is taking too long to pass through a sluggish colon.

The study presented at the meeting titled “Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer and Benign Neoplasm in Patients with Chronic Constipation,” warns sufferers of chronic constipation that rather than being a relatively benign condition that is marked by feelings of gastrointestinal discomfort, that the condition bears marked attention by the patient and his or her physician due to an increased risk for colon cancer—the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death. Health estimates for colon cancer state that in the U.S. there will be 143,460 new cases and 51,690 deaths due to this disease in 2012.

“In this study, patients with chronic constipation were found to be at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms. Although chronic constipation is considered a relatively benign disease, practitioners should be aware of this potential association to monitor and treat accordingly,” says co-investigator Nicholas Talley, M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Newcastle. “We encourage anyone with questions related to their condition to talk to their health care professional so that the specific health needs of each patient can be balanced with the risks and benefits of medications.”

The results of the study were gleaned from a large database consisting of medical claims made by 28,854 patients with chronic constipation and 86,562 controls without chronic constipation. After eliminating potentially confounding factors such as patients with diagnoses of irritable bowel syndrome or diarrhea, family history of color cancer, age, etc., the researchers found that:

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• Both colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms are more prevalent in chronic constipation patients than in patients without chronic constipation.

• Among the patients that were not previously diagnosed with colon cancer, patients with chronic constipation had a 1.78 times higher risk of developing colon cancer and a 2.7 times higher risk of developing benign neoplasms in their colon.

The researchers of the study point out that this is only an association and not a direct causation, but that one possibility why constipation may lead to colon cancer is due to prolonged exposure of the colon to stool that carries cancer-causing agents.

“This study demonstrates an association, not causation, between chronic constipation and both colorectal cancer and benign neoplasms” says Dr. Talley. “The postulated causal link between constipation and increased colorectal cancer risk is that longer transit times increase the duration of contact between the colonic mucosa and concentrated carcinogens in the lumen, such as bile acids or other carcinogens.”

For an informative article about how you can treat your chronic constipation, follow this link to an article titled “Potty Training for Adults May Cure Constipation.”

Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia

Reference: American College of Gastroenterology Annual Meeting Press Releases