Are You at Risk for Colon Cancer?
As the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, colon cancer each year will affect upwards of 100,000 new American patients. Some colon cancer cases are related to genetics and other non-modifiable risk factors, while other cases are linked to lifestyle choices. Knowing these risk factors is key to avoiding colon cancer altogether or detecting the disease early and enhancing your chances of a positive outcome.
Here are the risk factors we see most often among patients at Regional Cancer Care Associates.
Nearly 90 percent of patients with colon cancer, both male and female, are past age 50, though rarer instances of colon cancer do develop in teenagers and young adults. At diagnosis, the average age of male colon cancer patients is 68, while the average age for women is 72. That’s why as soon as you reach age 50, you should make regular colon cancer screenings part of your overall well-being routine.
Certain ethnic groups, including Ashkenazi Jews, are at an elevated risk for developing colon cancer, though the reason is still unknown. Colon cancer also is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths among African Americans, and African Americans are more likely to develop colon cancer at a younger age than people of other races. Because of this, African American men and women should start receiving regular colonoscopies at age 45.
Personal and Family History
Heredity and personal or family history of colon cancer are risk factors that, like age and ethnicity, are beyond your control. Risk for developing colon cancer is influenced by all of the following:
- Roughly 5 percent of colon cancer patients have genes that predispose them to the disease.
- Nearly 1 in 3 patients diagnosed with colon cancer have a relative or immediate family member who also has been diagnosed.
- A previous diagnosis of colon polyps, colon cancer or other cancers increases your risk of developing colon cancer—or developing it again.
If any of these risk factors apply to you, your doctor may order genetic testing to determine whether you are prone to colon cancer.
Some colon cancer risk factors are within your control, however. For example, following a healthy diet can greatly reduce your risk.
Consumption of alcoholic beverages increases your risk for developing any kind of cancer. Low-fiber diets are another nutritional red flag, because fiber allows the microbes of the digestive tract to thrive in their community, known as a microbiome. If your microbiome is healthy, your colon cancer risk is much lower.
Consuming a high amount of red and processed meats also may put you in danger. You could be increasing your colon cancer risk by eating:
- More than 18 ounces per week of any fresh meat
- Processed meats at any amount, however small the serving.
To err on the safe side, do your best to avoid:
- Red meat including lamb, pork, veal and beef
- Lunch meats such as ham and salami
- Hot dogs, bacon, jerky and other cured meats
Obesity and Inactive Lifestyle
Being inactive elevates your colon cancer risk, and being overweight or obese raises that risk even more. As with diet, you can minimize this risk factor with regular exercise and a healthy, nutritious diet. Your care team at Regional Cancer Care Associates can arrange counseling on nutrition and making healthy lifestyle choices as part of your treatment.
Cancer Care for NJ, CT and MD
Not everybody with these colon cancer risk factors will develop colon cancer, but if you or a loved one is diagnosed, turn to the experts at Regional Cancer Care Associates. Using the latest technology and most up-to-date methods and techniques, our team of specialists will devise an individualized treatment plan to give you the best outcome possible. For more information, contact Regional Cancer Care Associates today.