It is well known that men are more likely to get colon cancer than women. Researchers have now discovered that ready meals play a role in the development of the common cancer and significantly increase the risk of colon cancer in men. But this does not apply to women.

Colorectal cancer is one of the most common types of cancer worldwide. According to the Robert Koch Institute, around 1.4 million people are affected by the insidious type of cancer. Colorectal cancer is significantly more common in men than in women. In Germany, around 253,000 men are ill, and 32,900 new cases are added every year.

A possible reason for the gender-specific difference lies in the risk factors of the disease. In addition to genetic predispositions such as a family history, chronic inflammatory bowel diseases or factors such as age, these include:

The latter factors in particular tend to apply more frequently to men than to women. A study from 2021 examined the gender-specific difference in the number of cases for the first time using the risk factors mentioned.

The result: Factors such as high consumption of red meat or regular smoking can explain the increased risk of colon cancer in men by 47 percent.

But hormones could also play a role. In another study, researchers have found the first indications of hormonal influences on colon cancer growth, which, however, still need to be investigated further.

A new study by the Tufts and Harvard University in Massachusetts (USA) has now looked further into the risk factor of diet and has examined the effect of regular consumption of ready meals on the risk of colon cancer.

The scientists analyzed the eating habits of more than 46,000 men and 160,000 women from three cohort studies. They used questionnaires to record the test persons’ eating habits every four years. The aim was to identify a connection between the consumption of finished products and the risk of colon cancer.

According to the researchers, finished products include:

The result: men who regularly consume processed products have an almost 30 percent higher risk of colon cancer than those who rarely or never consumed processed products. The striking thing is that this connection was not found in women.

The researchers see the cause in changes in the microbiome that can result from the regular consumption of the products mentioned. “The ingredients unfavorably alter the composition of the microbiome in the gut, increasing the risk of weight gain and obesity.

These, in turn, are established risk factors for colorectal cancer, the scientists emphasize. In addition, there are food additives such as emulsifiers and artificial sweeteners that promote inflammation in the intestines.

Last but not least, the products lack nutrients and bioactive compounds that are necessary for the prevention of colon cancer. These include:

These are found primarily in fresh fruit and vegetables. The contained phytochemicals protect the cells, among other things, from free radicals that can promote cancer.

Why the consumption of ready meals only has a negative effect on the risk of colon cancer in men needs to be further investigated, the study continues. It can be assumed that they tend to reach for finished products more often. The consumption of red meat and processed sausages is also generally significantly higher in men than in women.

The WHO has classified red meat as generally carcinogenic for some time, and not without reason: a study from 2020, for example, shows that a component in meat – the so-called heme molecule – promotes the structure for certain carcinogenic activities in the intestinal epithelium can. This can even cause damage to the genetic material.

The body has now developed a protective mechanism against the heme molecule, heme oxygenase. But it can no longer keep up when too much red meat ends up in the intestines. So less meat means a healthier gut.

A study from 2018 also showed that nutrition plays a fundamental role in colorectal cancer prevention. According to the study results, seven percent of new cancer cases are due to obesity, six percent to low physical activity and a total of eight percent to poor eating habits.

Accordingly, the following measures can help to reduce your own risk of colon cancer:

You should also have regular colon cancer screening, because the earlier the cancer is detected, the better it can be treated. There are various examination methods to detect colon cancer (precursors), as the Felix Burda Foundation explains. The safest method is a colonoscopy. It is recommended for men over 50 and women over 55.

If there is an increased risk due to a family history of colon cancer or a chronic inflammatory bowel disease, you should have your bowel checked much earlier: If there is a family history of colon cancer, no later than at the age of 40 to 45.