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Are Food Additives Linked to Colon Cancer?

Of the cancers that affect men and women in the United States, colorectal cancer is the third most common. According to the most recent colorectal cancer statistics, over 136,000 Americans were diagnosed with the disease in 2013. 

Research suggests that the prevalence of this common cancer may be due in part to emulsifiers. Emulsifiers are additives that are used in most processed foods to improve texture and extend shelf life. They are present in many of the foods we eat regularly.

The Study: Emulsifiers & Intestinal Inflammation

Scientists have discovered that changes in the intestinal microbia could be a significant risk-factor for colorectal cancer. These microbial changes are also a key factor in Crohn’s disease and inflammatory bowel disease, or IBS. Because of this, research was done to discover the impact of emulsifiers on the microbial composition in the digestive tract. 

Recently, a study was performed on mice using two of the most common emulsifiers, polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose. Results showed that mice who consumed these chemicals showed dramatic changes in their gut microbia which led to a great deal of inflammation. Not only did the emulsifiers create a pro-inflammatory environment, it also changed the balance between cell creation and cell death. Disrupting this natural process can enhance tumor development.

Should You Cut Out All Processed Food?

Although the test on mice showed a correlation between emulsifiers and a greater risk of colorectal cancer, these studies have not been performed on people. The possibility exists that these effects may not be seen on humans.

With that said, it is always a good idea to eat as many natural, non-processed foods as possible. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean meats will improve your colorectal and overall health.

Factors That Increase Risk of Colorectal Cancer

While studies can’t yet confirm emulsifiers role in colorectal cancer, there are several preventable factors that are proven to increase risk:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Being physically inactive
  • Eating diets high in fat
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use

Schedule Your Colonoscopy

The best tool you have to preventing colorectal cancer is early detection. Pre-cancerous tumors and early stages of colorectal cancer are found during routine colonoscopies. For more information about getting a colonoscopy, or to learn more about colorectal cancer from Northwest Medical Specialties, schedule an appointment online or call us today at (253) 428-8700.


HEALTH ALERT! For the safety of our patients and staff only patients will be allowed into our clinics and everyone MUST wear a mask. See additional information regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19).


November 16, 2020 Update

During these difficult times we are making every effort to keep our patients and staff safe from COVID 19, we appreciate your patience and understanding with the changes you may have seen within our practice.

We strive to protect our patients and staff as much as we possibly can from any exposure on our premises.  NWMS has implemented a system wide policy that does not allow anyone in the building that is not a patient and everyone must wear an NWMS provided mask over their mouth and nose during their time on our premises.  This is to protect our vulnerable patients from the unforeseen possibility of exposure to COVID 19 which can be transmitted through aerosol droplets.  Sadly, we have had patients that have died from the complications of COVID 19, which is both devastating and preventable.

We offer a virtual visit option for family, friends, and companions to participate in the care of our patients through Zoom.  Our staff will assist you with every step of the login process and invite you to participate in real time from your vehicle or designated safe space in our building. Please contact us at 253-428-8700 to set this up.

The following offices are temporarily closed:

  • Bonney Lake
  • Federal Way

If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, please make sure to contact us via phone prior to your appointment. You may also contact us for any additional questions by calling our office at (253) 428-8700.

Here are a few additional resources as well:

World Health Organization

Centers for Disease Control