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GI North Blog
illustration showing good and bad bacteria in the colon | GI North

Although there are many different brands of colon cleanses on the market and most with natural ingredients, it does not necessarily mean it is a healthy thing to do.

Clean living is all the rage, and while watching what you put into your body can have positive outcomes, flushing your body out can create problems.

The Facts

Colon cleanses have been in practice for centuries, yet there are no studies that support any benefits.

There is no medical backing that toxins build up in the colon and need flushing. The body naturally rids itself of toxins through the bacteria in the colon, and the colon sheds its old cells every few days to avoid build-up. Furthermore, the liver and kidneys neutralize and filter toxins. And the mucus membranes located in the colon work to prevent toxins from entering the blood and bodily tissue.

There is no list of toxins that a cleanse eliminates; therefore, their function cannot be tested, and the benefit of flushing them out cannot be studied.

There is no regulation of the products used for a cleanse. And even though most cleanses contain all natural ingredients that does not make them safe or effective.

The Dangers

As with any medical process, there are risks involved with colon cleanses, and those risks increase greatly with frequency.

Common, Mild Side Effects

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Dehydration
  • Stomach pain
  • Depletion of beneficial bacteria
  • Electrolyte imbalance
  • Potassium decrease

Less Common, Severe Side Effects

  • Bowel perforation
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney problems
  • Fluid in the lungs
  • Liver toxicity
  • Coma
  • Death

High Risk Factors

  • Diverticulitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Rectal or colon tumors
  • Heart disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Severe hemorrhoids
  • Kidney disease
  • Connective tissue disorders
  • Recent bowel surgery
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding

The Proven Alternatives

If you are interested in ridding your body of toxins, there are several lifestyle changes that can effectively detoxify your colon and the rest of your digestive system.

Eat Right. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, and make sure you wash them thoroughly. Also increase your soluble and insoluble fiber to 20-35 grams daily.

Hydrate. Drinking plenty of water helps to keep your system functioning well.

Moderate. Alcohol and red meat should be consumed in moderation.

Quit Smoking. Tobacco has negative effects on the body and introduces unwanted toxins.

The Advice

While most doctors do not recommend colon cleanses, there are occasions when they are used medically. For example, patients undergoing a colonoscopy or patients suffering severe constipation, when other treatments have failed. When done, you should always consult your doctor, the equipment should be sterile, you should stay well hydrated, and any ingredients should be listed with their quantities.

If you are considering a cleanse or would like more information, the professionals at GI North are available to assist you. Dr. Cofranceso and Dr. Quijano, who speaks fluent Spanish, are both gastroenterologists, who specialize in digestive functions. Their office, GI North, is located in Cumming, GA, and they gladly serve the areas of Cumming, Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, and Suwanee.

© 2016 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

photo of a hand marking a calendar for a colonoscopy | GI North

Make sure to follow the recommended ages for screening tests. A colonoscopy checks the large intestine for polyps and cancer. This test also effectively removes any polyps that are found.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancers around. In fact, it is second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Not only does it affect all ethnic and racial groups but also it is often found in people over 50 years old.

However, you can prevent colorectal cancer in numerous ways. One of the most important is to get screened regularly, especially once you reach the age of 50. This is because there really are no signs or symptoms of colorectal cancer. This is why it is imperative to get screening so you can catch the cancer right away.

For increased awareness of this devastating cancer, March is now known as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.


The majority of colorectal cancers start out as a polyp, which is a growth in the tissue that lines the inner surface of the rectum or colon. Polyps are generally either raised or flat and can grow with or without a stalk. Although most are not cancerous, the adenoma type polyp has a greater risk of becoming a cancer. Therefore it is very important to have screening done on a regular basis if you are age 50 or older.

Types of Screening

Screening is a big part of colorectal cancer awareness. For the most part, there are various types of screening. Each type of screening has different routines and ways of testing.


A colonoscopy checks the large intestine for polyps and cancer. This test effectively removes any polyps that are found. Generally, the test takes about three hours and requires the patient be sedated. Hence, there needs to be a designated driver to help the patient home.

Hemoccult or High-Sensitivity Fecal Occult Blood Tests (FOBT)

If you are 50 years of age or older, your doctor may recommend that you have an FOBT test once a year. Since polyps and colorectal cancers, an FOBT test can check for tiny amounts of blood in feces (stool) that is not normally seen. Research claims that if the gFOBT is done every 1 to 2 years in people aged 50 to 80 years, it can lower the number of deaths due to colorectal cancer by 15 to 33 percent.

At present, there are two types of FOBT tests that screens for colorectal cancer: fecal immunochemical (or immunohistochemical) test (FIT or iFOBT) and guaiac FOBT (gFOBT). With both types of FOBT, feces samples are tested:

iFOBT – To detect human hemoglobin, antibodies are used. Generally, there are not dietary restrictions for testing.

gFOBT – chemicals are used to detect heme, an element of hemoglobin (a blood protein). Since certain foods contain heme (e.g., red meat), the diet is restricted prior to the test.

Flexible Sigmoidoscopy

Similar to a colonoscopy except that only the lower part of the large intestine and the rectum are examined with a sigmoidoscope. Typically, the test only takes a few minutes. Also, the lower colon needs to be cleared of stool before the test.

Regular Screening

The best prevention of colorectal cancer is regular screening. At GI North, their professional practice offers innovative experience and focused care in the treatment and prevention of colorectal cancer. As well, Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano at GI North service the north metro Atlanta communities such as Dawsonville, Dahlonega, Duluth, Alpharetta, John’s Creek, Suwanee and Milton, GA. And if you would like a Spanish-speaking physician, you can request an appointment with Dr. Quijano.

© 2016 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

photo of man holding his chest | GI North

If you are unsure what is causing your heartburn, keep a diary and track your food and behavior to find patterns.

Heartburn or acid reflux is a common occurrence for most Americans, and whether it is a minor annoyance or affects your daily activities, there are several usual causes that you can cure with lifestyle changes.

Defining the Problem

Heartburn is a reaction from stomach acid entering the esophagus when the LES (lower esophageal sphincter) does not function properly. This valve keeps acid in the stomach and opens to allow food in or gas out, but if it opens too often or doesn’t close tight enough, you can experience a burning sensation in your lower chest or throat.

Usual Causes

Food. Most occasional sufferers notice a correlation to the food they eat. While any food can affect people differently, there are a few foods that are more likely to cause irritation.

  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruit and orange juice
  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Spicy food
  • Black pepper
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, soda)
  • Alcohol

Additionally, any meals high in fat and oil can have a negative effect, and meal size is a major factor. Regardless of what you are eating, eating before bed or lying down and eating large meals are the most common causes.

Behavior and Emotion. Unfortunately, like your eating habits, your other daily habits and your emotional state can affect your suffering. Smoking is a major contributing factor to acid reflux as well as stress and a lack of sleep. Additionally, exercise can aggravate the LES.

Conditions. Other reasons you may suffer are due to medical conditions.

Medications. Unfortunately, more often than naught, medicine designed to help one condition causes undesirable side effects. Common medicines that can cause acid reflux include:

  • Aspirin
  • NSAIDS (ibuprofen, naproxen)
  • Blood pressure medication
  • Sedatives
  • Narcotics
  • Progesterone
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Osteoporosis medication
  • Supplements, especially iron and potassium

Treatments and Cures

Lifestyle changes can cure or lessen the majority of cases.

  • Eat small, more frequent meals
  • Avoid problem foods
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Avoid eating before bed
  • Elevate your upper body while sleeping
  • Quit smoking
  • Lose weight
  • Change exercise habits (avoid pressure on abs, bending over, jostling exercises, and exercising on a full stomach)

If you are unsure what causes your suffering, keep a diary tracking your food and behavior to find patterns. Usually, doctors prescribe prescription medicine to treat acid reflux.

Some chronic suffers may have more serious conditions such as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), ulcers, scarring, stricture, or Barrett’s Esophagus. You should see a doctor if you suffer more than two times a week, over-the-counter medicines don’t help, you have difficulty swallowing, nausea, vomiting, black stools, or weight loss.

Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano at GI North can help diagnosis and treat your heartburn and other stomach problems. As certified gastroenterologists, they are uniquely qualified to provide you with quality, personalized care. Dr. Quijano even speaks fluent Spanish to better assist all the patients at GI North. Conveniently located in Cumming, GA, GI North serves the areas of Roswell, Alpharetta, Canton, and Suwanee. Contact us today and stop suffering.

© 2016 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

photo of woman holding her stomach | GI NorthOne of the most challenging topics to discuss is bowel movements, even with your doctor. However, changes in bowel movements can be a sign of health issues. But before you start worrying, it is important to define normal regularity. Since regularity is unique to every individual, there are many variables to consider. In fact, what is normal for one person may not be normal for another.

Even the color of your stools is an indicator of your health. According to WebMD, a drastic change in color can be a red flag. For instance, black stools can mean that you are bleeding internally, which can indicate cancer or ulcers. Black stools are also common with certain medications or vitamins such as iron. Although rare, light colored stools such as grey clay can mean liver disease or a block in the bile flow.

The Bowel Movement Process

The bowels are the lower parts of your digestive tract. Digestion starts in your mouth then the stomach and ends in the bowels. When food reaches the bowels, the remaining salts and water are absorbed. This digested food then coverts to a more solid material and exits as bowel movements. According to many specialists, normal bowel movements consist of formed brown stools that are not too loose or hard.

Hard and dry stools are an indicator of constipation. Symptoms of constipation include hard and dry stools that are painful or difficult to pass. Not having a bowel movement for more than three days is also a common symptom of constipation. Symptoms of diarrhea include loose or watery stools.

Size, Shape and Color of Bowel Movements

By and large, bowel movements should be soft and easy to pass. But some people have softer or harder stools than others. Also, stools should be a golden brown or brown in color. They should be formed and have a shape similar to a sausage. However, there is no cause for concern if your stools vary a bit. Though, it is advisable to talk to s specialist if your stools change suddenly.


Constipation is a very common problem. In fact, it is estimated that 2.5 million people visit a specialist every year complaining of constipation. People who are most affected are children, women and those 65 and older.

Common symptoms are dry, hard, lumpy stools that are painful or difficult to pass. Constipation can also be accompanied by bloating and discomfort. There are many things that can cause constipations such as low dietary fiber, not enough exercise and dehydration. For good overall health and regularity, it is recommended that you exercise 30 minutes a day, eat plenty of fiber and keep hydrated.


Diarrhea is defined as loose and watery stools that occur more than 3 times a day. It lasts about one to three days and generally does not require treatment. Diarrhea can be caused by numerous factors such as food allergy or intolerance, infection, common flu or side effects of medication. It is best to seek treatment if your diarrhea is accompanied by dehydration, fever, severe pain, has a black color, contains blood or lasts more than three days.

Change in Bowel Movements

Normal regularity varies for each person in consistency and frequency. However, there are many indications of an abnormal bowel movement, which can be a sign of a more serious condition. It is especially important to see a specialist if you are 50 years of age or older because the risk of digestive disease is higher.

Schedule an appointment with a qualified specialist if you feel that you do not have normal regularity. It is always best to be on the safe side. The professional expertise at GI North offers advanced knowledge and individualized care in gastroenterology and treating diseases of the digestive system. Dr. Quijano and Dr. Cofrancesco at GI North service the metro Atlanta communities including Suwanee, Milton, John’s Creek, Duluth, Dawsonville, Dahlonega and Alpharetta. In addition, you can request an appointment with Dr. Quijano if you prefer a Spanish speaking physician.

© 2016 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

Once a risk for elderly and those exposed to hospitals and long-term care facilities, CDI (Clostridium Difficile Infection), is on the rise. Often referred to C. difficcile or C. diff, this bacterium attacks the intestinal lining of its host causing symptoms that range from mild to severe.

The Spread

C. diff is found throughout our environment in food, water, air, soil, and in some people who carry the bacteria and don’t know it, but mostly commonly it is found in feces, and it is through feces that C. diff is usually spread.

Hospitals. C. diff can live for months outside the body on nearly any surface, so the spread of the infection can become rampant if proper sanitation is not practiced. In places where people are in close contact and feces are handled regularly, such as hospitals and long-term care facilities, the number infected is much higher.

Antibiotics. Our bodies carry both good and bad bacteria, yet when we take antibiotics both the good and bad are affected leaving us vulnerable to infection. Therefore, long term use of antibiotics, especially broad-spectrum antibiotics, elevate our risk for contracting CDI.

Additional Risks. Even those who aren’t on antibiotics can carry an added risk. Higher risk individuals include anyone who has under gone GI surgery, has a weakened immune system, takes chemotherapy drugs, has kidney disease, takes proton-pump inhibitors, or has a colon disease such as IBS or colorectal cancer.

Precautions. Since C. diff is transferred from person to person through infected surfaces, proper hygiene is the most effective precaution. Washing hands regularly, especially after handling feces, and frequently cleaning of surfaces are vital in stopping the spread of infection. In addition, if you are taking antibiotics use them only as prescribed.

The Symptoms

C. diff attacks the intestinal lining causing a variety of symptoms that can range widely in severity. Those infected experience diarrhea, abdominal pain or tenderness, nausea, loss of appetite, fever, blood or pus in stool, weight loss, or severe pain. A mild case of CDI usually causes diarrhea three times a day where a severe case can increase to about 15 times a day. Any symptom or suspected case of CDI is dangerous leading to dehydration with possible kidney failure, a hole in the intestines, toxic mega-colon (inability to expel gas and stool), and even death.

The Help

Seek medical attention immediately if you experience symptoms of Clostridium Difficile Infection as the longer you wait the more at risk for serious complications you become. For any stomach concerns, contact GI North. As gastroenterologists, Dr. Cofrancesco or Dr. Quijano, are especially qualified to help. Located in Cumming, GA, GI North is conveniently located to service Cumming and the surrounding areas of Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, and Suwanee. Contact GI North for a medical experience combining advanced technology and personalized care.

© 2016 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

illustration showing esophageal cancer | Gi North Detecting esophageal cancer in its early stages can be very difficult. Generally the initial signs seem like ordinary digestive problems. And unfortunately, it oftentimes goes undetected until the disease has advanced. Moreover, when esophageal cancer is at advanced stages it limits treatment options.

However, there are several signs and symptoms of esophageal cancer. It is advised that you consult a doctor if you experience any symptoms, especially if they persist for several weeks.

When to see Your Doctor or a Specialist

According to the Mayo Clinic, you should schedule an appointment with a specialist if you have any continual signs and symptoms that are troubling you. As well, your risk of esophageal cancer is increased if you have been diagnosed with Barrett’s esophagus. Ask your physician what signs and symptoms to watch for.

Difficulty Swallowing

One of the most common symptoms of esophageal cancer is pain or difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia). Most often the throat feels irritated or there is pressure. Pain can sometimes be felt right after swallowing, when liquid or food reaches a tumor and cannot pass. There may also be pain if the cancer has caused a lesion in the lining of the esophagus or surrounding tissues. Generally this type of pain is felt in the back between the shoulder blades or in the chest.


It is best to see your doctor if you are hoarse and feel the need to clear your throat often, especially if the irritation cannot be explained by any other illness or condition.

Unexplained Weight Loss

You should consult a physician if you are unintentionally losing weight. Although unexplained weight loss can mean many things, it is best to make an appointment with a doctor.


Constant heartburn is also a symptom of esophageal cancer. The heartburn is painful and can be accompanied with a burning sensation behind the breast bone or in the throat.

Persistent Cough

A persistent cough that does not go away is a symptom of esophageal cancer. To be on the safe side, schedule an appointment with a specialist.

Hiccups with Difficulty Swallowing or Pain

It is advisable to contact a specialist if you get the hiccups often and also have difficulty swallowing or pain. If you often have the hiccups and also have pain or difficulty swallowing, you need to see a doctor. The two conditions combined together are common in esophageal cancer.


If at any time you suspect that you may have esophageal cancer, it is best to schedule an appointment with a qualified physician. At GI North, their professional practice offers advanced experience and attentive care in gastroenterology and treating diseases of the digestive system. Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano at GI North service many metro Atlanta communities such as Alpharetta, Dahlonega, Dawsonville, Duluth, John’s Creek, Milton, Suwanee and beyond. And if you prefer a Spanish speaking physician, you can request your appointment to be with Dr. Quijano.

© 2016 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

Fish contains less fat than meat | GI North

Salmon is a good source of protein and contains heart-healthy omega-3’s and less fat than meat.

Protein is a prerequisite for optimum health. You need it to maintain healthy bones, muscle and blood. Rendering the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), proteins are even more important during puberty, childhood and pregnancy. But how much protein does the average person require in order to stay healthy?

Many experts agree that the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of proteins is in direct correlation with age and gender. It also depends upon certain life stages such as puberty. In addition, some specialists believe that a higher-protein diet may help you maintain a healthy weight and also support strong muscles with aging. However, some researchers suggest that too many proteins may cause weight gain, intestinal irritation, increased liver enzymes and other health issues. Unquestionably, most experts agree that selecting the right type of proteins is vital to health.

For instance, a diet high in red meat can be detrimental to your health and lead to certain problems like cancer. A great write-up on the subject: Red Meat and Colorectal Cancer: Understanding the Relationship

Composition and Recommendations

Proteins consist of amino acids. Essential amino acids are the amino acids your body cannot make itself. There are 20 different amino acids in the food you eat. But your body can only make 11 amino acids. The nine essential amino acids must be obtained from the diet. Therefore, it is imperative that your diet contain the proper amounts of complete proteins. In fact, 10 and 35 percent of your daily calories should come from high quality proteins.

RDA Recommendations

The RDA for children varies with age and certain life changes:

  • Ages 1 to 3 years – 13 grams
  • Ages 4 to 8 years – 19 grams
  • Ages 9 to 13 years – 34 grams
  • Girls ages 14 to 18 – 46 grams
  • Boys ages 14 to 18 – 52 grams

As well, the RDA for adults can vary with age:

  • Adult women ages 19 to 70+ years – 46 grams
  • Adult men ages 19 to 70+ years – 56 grams

Good Sources of Proteins

The type of proteins you eat plays a big factor in your overall health. As research suggests, consuming large qualities of processed meats like sausages and deli meats have been linked to the increase of cardiovascular disease, colorectal cancer and type 2 diabetes. For a healthy diet, you should limit your consumption of red meat and avoid processed meats completely. Best protein sources include the following:

  • Fish: Contains heart-healthy omega-3’s and less fat than meat
  • Poultry: High in protein. Reduce most of the saturated fat by removing skin.
  • Nuts: One ounce of walnuts has 7 grams of protein. This is almost as much protein as one ounce of broiled rib eye steak.
  • Legumes: High in protein and fiber to help keep you full for hours.
  • Whole grains: One slice of whole wheat bread contains 3 grams of protein, plus valuable fiber.

A Healthier Approach

If you often feel tired even with the daily recommended amounts of proteins, there may be an imbalance in your system such as a digestive disorder or other issues. If you have any concerns or worries, it is best to visit a gastroenterologist.

For a healthier approach to your dietary needs visit GI North located in Cumming, GA. At GI North, gastroenterologist Simon R. Cofrancesco, M.D. and Sergio Quijano, M.D. have extensive knowledge and experience in treating diseases of the digestive system. In addition, Dr. Quijano is fluent in Spanish. GI North also services the surrounding areas Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, and Suwanee.

© 2015 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

photo of a family eating a Thanksgiving meal

With a little preparation Thanksgiving and other holiday meals can be enjoyed by most people that suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

IBS, which is short for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, causes thousands of Americans discomfort when using the bathroom. Since it is a gastrointestinal condition, your diet and eating habits play a huge role in either causing or preventing IBS flare-ups.

Your Diet and IBS

No one likes to have their diet restricted. If you suffer from IBS, then unfortunately you don’t have much of a choice. There are certain types of food that will irritate your condition, and you should work on eliminating them completely. Here are a few examples.

1. Gluten

Gluten is a type of protein found in grains. It was always know that celiac disease was an allergy to gluten, but scientists have only recently began to understand the widespread prevalence of gluten sensitivity among the American public.

Luckily, the food market has responded in kind with a plethora of gluten-free alternatives to popular products.

2. Fruit and vegetable skins

Now don’t stop eating your fruits and veggies, but you may want to peel them if you suffer from IBS. The insoluble fiber in the skins of fruits and vegetables can cause mayhem in the digestive tract.

3. Caffeine

Caffeine is a diuretic, which means that it makes you go to the bathroom. If going to the bathroom is causing you discomfort, then it’s only logical to cut back on everything that makes you go to the bathroom.

4. Spicy and Fried Foods

The reason you have to give up spicy and fried foods is the same reason you have to give up caffeine: they make you go to the bathroom. Try to keep the fried and spicy foods to a special occasion rather than a daily or weekly occurrence.

5. Dairy

IBS is similar to lactose intolerance in that dairy of all kinds acts as a trigger. When it comes to milk, there are plenty of alternatives. Almond milk and soy milk are two choices that taste great and give you plenty of nutrients.

Eating Habits and IBS

When it comes to IBS flare-ups, how you eat can matter just as much as what you eat. Here are a couple of eating habits you can use to minimize flare-ups.

1. Don’t eat right before bed

Eating before bed causes your digestive system to be active while you’re horizontal and sedentary. This works against how the system is designed to work, which is simply asking for discomfort in the middle of the night.

2. Plan your meals ahead of time

Take time every Sunday to plan your meals for the week. Often times, the fried food we eat comes from a fast-food restaurant on the days we don’t feel like preparing a meal. Having a plan will keep you from giving into these impulses and will keep your digestive system in check.

Are you located in the Cumming, GA area and suffering from IBS? Schedule an appointment at GI North with Dr. Cofrancesco or Dr. Quijano to discuss treatment options. They service patients in Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, and Suwanee, and Dr. Quijano is fluent in Spanish. By going to GI North you will get on a track that will calm your bowels and give you the comfort you deserve.

© 2015 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

photo of red meat | GI NorthAn international panel of experts convention organized by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded on October 26th, 2015 stated that consumption of processed meat such as bacon, hotdogs, and ham increases the risk of colon cancer and that eating other red meats “probably” increases this risk as well. This panel did not provide any specific guidelines on the consumption of red meat. However, its conclusions support recommendations given by other scientific organizations such as the dietary guidelines advisory committee that has for long discouraged the consumption of red and processed meat. This report may also influence other health organizations such as the European Food Safety Commission.

Nonetheless, the conclusions of this panel sparked strong responses, with remarkable resistance from meat industries, while some environmental groups asked that labels be placed on meat. But, what component in these foods can lead to cancer? The staffs at GI North would like to let you know that many studies have been carried out on this subject.

Burnt or Charred Meat?

There is a common notion that burnt or charred food, especially meat, can cause colorectal cancer (CRC). Some evidence points to this end. However, there are some possible explanations why this is not the major factor. The chemicals produced when red and white meat is burnt are the same, but white meat is not associated with bowel cancer. There are great variations in the way meat is prepared around the world. But, the link between red meat is somehow universal. Again, although the chemicals involved in charring meat are known to cause DNA damage in the lab, this cannot be proof of carcinogenicity in the real world.


The link between being overweight and developing colon cancer is well known. But, there is a big variation between being fat and eating fat. Overweight people are more susceptible to certain kinds of cancer, including CRC. But studies show that people who eat less fat, rather than “skinny” people, have a reduced CRC risk. In fact, a Swedish study showed that women who ate the highest quantity of fatty foods had lower CRC risk regardless of their weight. Thus, it is unlikely for the fat contained in the red meat to cause CRC.

Nitrite and Nitrate Preservatives

Proof suggests that processed meats such as pate, ham, sausages, and bacon, and tinned meat such as Spam are more strongly associated with CRC than red meat. Processed foods often have nitrogen-based preservatives to prevent them from spoilage during transport and storage. This evidence is patchy, but cannot be ruled out completely. A 2006 study in Sweden showed that women who consumed high levels of foods containing nitro-based preservatives had higher rates of CRC.


Haem is the pigment contained in hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen around our bodies and makes our blood red. It is also responsible for making red meat “red.” Scientists found that haem is broken down in the gut to form N-nitroso compounds. These have been shown to cause damage to the DNA of cells in the digestive system lining. And the damage to the DNA is the first step towards cancer. A complication then occurs; when the gut lining senses damage, it signals to the existing cells to divide faster to facilitate the production of new cells. This expedited cell division may also increase the risk of developing cancer because, as the cell divides, it has an increased risk of making a copy error in its DNA.

Considering all the evidence, it seems the haem breakdown is responsible for the increased risk for CRC in red meat eaters. This is the main reason many scientific and health organizations discourage people from eating excess amounts of red meat. If you suspect that you are suffering from colorectal cancer, or have any complications in your gastrointestinal system, consult the specialists at GI North where Dr. Cofrancesco and Dr. Quijano will attend to you. GI North serves the residents of Cumming, GA area as well as Alpharetta, Roswell, Canton, and Suwanee. Dr. Quijano also speaks fluent Spanish, and will be of great benefit to all the Spanish-speaking patients in these areas.

© 2015 GI North Gastroenterology Services. All rights reserved.

photo of a calendar with a colonoscopy appointment on it

If you have colorectal cancer in your family, getting a colonoscopy done at the recommended ages is the key to an early diagnosis and getting proper treatment.

5 to 10 percent of all colorectal cancer cases are triggered by a heritable mutation (genetic alteration that can be passed on from a parent to the child). There are two major subtypes of hereditary colon cancer:

• Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
• Lynch syndrome, commonly referred to as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)

Besides, some rare conditions such as attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP) and MUTYH-associated polyposis have been linked to an inherited risk of colorectal cancer. Also, there are other additional and unusual hereditary colorectal cancer causes that your physician will discuss with you if your family or personal history indicates that these symptoms might be present.

Some families have a strong history of colorectal cancer though no known mutations have been detected. Scientists don’t understand whether the susceptibility of these families to disease occurs randomly, or due to hereditary mutations that are yet to be identified.

Types of Hereditary Colorectal Cancer

The following are the different types of hereditary colon cancer.

1. Lynch Syndrome

Lynch Syndrome, also known as HNPCC, accounts for 2-3 percent of all diagnosed cases of colorectal cancer. Patients with this condition have an 80 percent risk of developing colorectal cancer as well as certain other types of cancer including tumors of the urinary tract, small intestines, pancreas, stomach, biliary system, ovary, and uterus.

Families with Lynch syndrome usually have:

• Three or more related members of the family diagnosed with colon cancer
• Affected members of the family in two or more generations
• At least one family member diagnosed with colorectal cancer before the age of 50

The mutations causing Lynch syndrome occur in the genes that take part in the DNA mismatch repair (a process that helps a cell to correct errors in the genetic code). These errors may arise randomly during cell division, or when the DNA is damaged. These mutations may trigger the accumulation of DNA errors in the cells, causing an increased risk of cancer.

2. Familial Adenomatous Polyposis

Familial adenomatous polyposis is rare, and it contributes to less than one percent of colorectal cancer. It is characterized by polyposis (the production of thousands of polyps in the colon) usually at a young age. Most often, untreated FAP causes the development of colorectal cancer at around the age of 40. In some cases, FAP can cause the development of stomach cancer or polyps in the upper gastrointestinal tract. Individuals diagnosed with FAP are strongly advised to seek medical help at specialized treatment centers such as GI North. A mutation in a gene called APC is responsible for FAP. People with the APC mutation have a 50 percent risk of passing this mutation on to a child.

3. Attenuated Familial Adenomatous Polyposis

Attenuated adenomatous polyposis (AFAP) is a milder form of FAP. People suffering from AFAP develop fewer polyps, usually between 30 and 100. If left untreated, AFAP can cause colorectal cancer by the time the individual reaches the age of 55. It can also cause stomach cancer or polyps in the upper gastrointestinal tract.

4. MUTYH-Associated Polyps

Researchers have discovered that mutations in a gene known as MUTYH may cause polyps that resemble those seen in AFAP. This condition is referred to as MUTYH-associated polyposis (MAP). It can be passed on from a parent to a child in an autosomal recessive manner. That is, a person needs to inherit two mutated genes —one from each parent— to produce cancer.

Genetic Testing for Colon Cancer

Several genetic tests can determine whether an individual has a genetic mutation that predisposes him or her to colon cancer. They include tests for MUTYH, MLH1, PMS2, MSH2, APC, and MSH6.

If you have a family history of colon cancer, you are highly encouraged to speak with a colonoscopy expert at GI North. Dr. Quijano and Dr. Cofrancesco serve the residents of Cumming, GA, as well as the surrounding areas of Canton, Roswell, Suwanee, Johns Creek, Dawsonville, and Alpharetta. Dr. Quijano also speaks fluent Spanish, and this is of great benefit to all Spanish-speaking people visiting GI North. Give GI North a call today at (404) 446-0600 for more information or to make an appointment.

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