Colorectal cancer is one of the five most common cancers in the U.S. and a leading cause of cancer deaths. And while it is not completely clear how specific risk factors lead to the development of colon cancer, multiple factors are known to increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Some colon cancer risk factors are impossible to avoid including family history, inherited syndromes, inflammatory bowel disease, race and ethnicity. These factors predispose an individual to the development of colon cancer, and while they can’t be changed, starting colonoscopy screening earlier than age 50 (the recommended age for screening in average-risk individuals) is advised.
Other lifestyle factors can also raise colon cancer risk, but the good news is these factors are within an individual’s control. They include:
Ongoing studies are also looking at other potential causes of colorectal cancer. Doctors at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore recently discovered two digestive bacteria that produce a film on the colon before polyps form. Scientists are theorizing many colon cancers might be traceable to these specific bacteria. While more research is needed, cancer studies continue to shine new light on possible links.
Signs & Symptoms
Symptoms of colorectal cancer don’t typically appear until the cancer has grown to advanced stages. When they do occur, they include:
Many non-cancerous conditions can produce symptoms similar to those of colon cancer including hemorrhoids, infection, irritable bowel syndrome or inflammatory bowel disease. The only way to rule out colon cancer is to see your doctor.
Colorectal Cancer Screening
Regular colorectal cancer screening can save lives. The American Cancer Society recommends regular colorectal cancer screening for most people starting at age 50. Those with known risk factors should consult their doctor on when to begin screening.
Screening methods include:
Of the various test types, colonoscopy is the screening method used most often since small polyps discovered on the exam can be immediately removed and biopsied.
One study found that 31 percent of adults over the age of 50 have never been screened for colon cancer, while 33 percent of those between the ages of 60 and 70 have been screened only once and have skipped follow-up screenings.
Simply put, colon screening saves lives. If you haven’t been screened, talk to your doctor about colorectal cancer screening and schedule yours today.