Junk food lover diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer at 29 fears his ‘s*** diet’ of Subway sandwiches and steaks caused disease that is spiking in young people

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Written By Rivera Claudia

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A man diagnosed with colon cancer aged 29 fears he caused his own disease by eating too much fast food and red meat for years.

Joe Faratzis, now 34 and from Los Angeles, was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer in 2019 after spending years suffering from symptoms including a dull pain in his abdomen and detecting specks of blood on his toilet paper.

He is one of the victims of a mystery surge in colon cancer cases among adults under 50 years old which many doctors have attributed to poor diets and processed food.

Faratzis told DailyMail.com: ‘I really think I caused my own colorectal cancer, you know, that is my personal opinion.

‘My diet was heavy in processed foods and red meats, there was a lot of like processed stuff — like Subway sandwiches — and late night snacks — it really was not the best. I also did genetic testing and I am not predisposed to colon cancer.’ 

And pictured in hospital during his treatment

Joe Faratzis, now 34 and from Los Angeles, is pictured above in his 20s before the cancer was detected (left) and during treatment which began in 2020 (right)

The above graph shows colon cancer cases among under 50s by year. There is a drop in 2020 because the Covid pandemic led to fewer people coming forward for screenings

He added online: ‘It’s a really tough pill to swallow when you think your issues are caused by things you’ve directly done.

‘But thinking back to when I found the tumor and the doctor said it had probably been there for about three years or so. Thinking back I was like 25 at that time and was not taking care of myself.

‘I had like the s******** diet. I was eating Subway — like Subway Italian sandwiches — like non stop, like every other day I feel like because I was too lazy to cook.

‘And I would eat red meat like no other. Any time I had a chance to have a steak, I mean who doesn’t love frickin’ steak.

‘But unfortunately I think like my diet is what ended up causing my colorectal cancer.’

Numerous studies have linked a diet high in ultra-processed foods — such as mass produced breads and ready meals — to a higher risk of cancers, including colon cancer where a study suggests it raises the risk by 29 percent among men who eat the most processed food compared to those who eat the least.

Experts believe chemicals, colorings, sweeteners and preservatives added to products to extend shelf-life could raise the risk by causing mutations in DNA.

California became the first state in the US to start outlawing food additives this year that have been legal for decades in America, even after they were banned in Europe.

Yesterday, the state also started to consider a further ban on additives for schools.

Mr Faratzis said: ‘I’ve never been told that specifically, it’s been kind of alluded to… I don’t have anything genetically that would cause colorectal cancer.

‘So I think I have to chalk it up to being my own fault unfortunately. I hope I’m wrong but that is kind of the conclusion I have come to unfortunately.’

Nutritionists split food into three groups based on the amount of processing they have gone through. Minimally processed foods, like apples, are usually exactly how they appear in nature. Processed foods, like apple sauce, have gone through at least one level of processing that has changed their original form. In contrast, ultra-processed foods like apple jelly babies, have gone through multiple levels of processing and are usually full of extra fats, colours and preservatives

Nutritionists split food into three groups based on the amount of processing they have gone through. Minimally processed foods, like apples, are usually exactly how they appear in nature. Processed foods, like apple sauce, have gone through at least one level of processing that has changed their original form. In contrast, ultraprocessed foods like apple jelly babies, have gone through multiple levels of processing and are usually full of extra fats, colours and preservatives

Subway sandwiches contained the preservative azodicarbonamide until 2014, which can break down into a cancer-causing substance in the body. The European Union outlawed the substance in 2005.

Many of their meats currently contain the additive sodium nitrite, which studies have previously linked to a higher risk of colon cancer.

Several studies have also linked consuming large amounts of red meats to colon cancer, warning the nitrates and nitrites in the meats can be broken down into a substance that can damage cells in the bowel.

Mr Faratzis first began suffering symptoms of the cancer in his late 20s, when he had a dull and mild ache in his chest whenever he bent down.

He went to doctors who ordered a CT scan, but the young professional — who works in the entertainment industry — never followed up, saying he believed it was unnecessary and way too costly.

About six months later, he noticed there were flecks of blood on his toilet paper once or twice a week — which he figured was due to a benign issue.

He said: ‘As a 28-year-old man, I thought I was invincible, so I didn’t do anything about it.

‘Plus I didn’t want to just run to the doctor to get a rectal exam. The whole situation… seemed uncomfortable and embarrassing.’

A few months later, however, he was sitting on the sofa when he suddenly saw blood on the couch. He rushed to the toilet, where about half a cup of blood came out of his body.

He then rushed to doctors who ordered a CT scan and a colonoscopy, which revealed he had what doctors thought at the time was stage two cancer — or cancer that hadn’t spread from his colon.

He was administered chemotherapy to reduce the size of the tumor and then had surgery to remove the portion of the colon that contained cancer in early 2020.

Mr Faratzis pictured in hospital during his treatment for stage four colon cancer

Mr Faratzis pictured in hospital during his treatment for stage four colon cancer

Mr Faratzis had more than 11 surgeries on his lungs after doctors found the cancer had spread there. He is pictured above with his girlfriend Madison and their pet dog

Mr Faratzis had more than 11 surgeries on his lungs after doctors found the cancer had spread there. He is pictured above with his girlfriend Madison and their pet dog

Mr Faratzis pictured above holding his dog

And pictured above in a video on TikTok

Mr Faratzis has not had any cancer cells detected in his body for a year and is hopeful for the future

At the time, he also had a colostomy bag fitted — where the small intestine is redirected to empty into a bag instead of the large colon to give the colon time to heal.

Mr Faratzis then had more imaging tests carried out which revealed the cancer had spread to his lungs and liver.

This led to another three months of chemotherapy and, over the last few years, 11 surgeries on the lungs to remove cancer spots that kept appearing.

Mr Faratzis says he has now gone a year without any new cancers appearing, but that he still needs to go to the doctors for scans every three months.

He told DailyMail.com: ‘Nothing has popped up anywhre in the last year, no evidence of any kinds of tumors growing.

‘But the cancer spread either through the blood or the lymphatic system, so there may still be some circulating tumor cells.’ 

It comes after a bill in California was revealed yesterday that aimed to ban even more popular food additives from public schools linked to cancer and behavioral issues.

Democrats introduced the bill to ban Red Dye No. 40, Yellow Dye No. 5, Yellow Dye No. 6, Blue Dye No.1, Blue Dye No. 2, Green Dye No. 3 and titanium dioxide from schools.

If passed, the legislation would require brands to change their recipes by 2025 or face being barred from the state.

The state has also banned potassium bromate, propylparaben, brominated vegetable oil and Red Dye No.3 — with this set to come into force in 2027.

Other states, including New York and Pennsylvania, are also considering following suit. 

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