Colon cancer is one of the most common cancers diagnosed in the United States with more than 106,000 new cases diagnosed last year. The colon is your large intestine, and it’s essential to removing waste from your body.
You probably know that experts, like our own Dr. Bharat Pothuri here at GastroDoxs, recommend you start getting colon cancer screenings, or colonoscopies, at age 45 if you have an average risk. People with a higher risk of colon cancer may elect to start these screenings sooner.
Your colon cancer risk increases with age, especially when you’re over 60. Other major factors that contribute to your risk include:
People whose parents, grandparents, siblings, or children have had a diagnosis of colon cancer are at an increased risk of developing this type of cancer. This is particularly true if the relative’s diagnosis came before age 45. If you have a family history of colorectal cancer, your risk of developing the disease is nearly double.
If you’ve had precancerous polyps or been diagnosed with colon cancer in the past, you have a greater risk. This is also true if you’ve been diagnosed with ovarian cancer or uterine cancer.
Men are slightly more likely to develop colon cancer as compared to women.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
People with ulcerative colitis or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) are at a higher risk of colon cancer. Don’t confuse IBD with IBS, which is irritable bowel syndrome, a condition that does not raise your risk of colon cancer.
Type 2 diabetes increases your risk. Research shows that elevated levels of insulin and other hormones promote the growth of colon cancer cells and allows them to survive.
Being overweight or obese increases your colon cancer risk.
Smoking or heavy alcohol use (or both) contributes to an increased risk.
If you’re of African American descent or related to the Ashkenazi Jews, you have a greater risk. If you fall into either of these racial categories, starting screenings before age 45 makes sense. Early detection means it’s easier to treat the disease.
Being sedentary increases your risk. Bring sedentary means you sit most of the time and don’t participate in exercise.
Research links high consumption of red and processed meats with increased colon cancer instances. The exact reason for this link is unclear.
Reducing your risk of colon cancer
While some of these factors like gender, age, and race cannot be changed, you are in control of many of the risk factors. If you’re at a higher risk of developing colon cancer, talk to Dr. Pothuri. He can help you set up a screening schedule to help prevent colon cancer by detecting suspicious polyps early and removing them.
You also benefit from achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, moderating alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink per day for women or 2 drinks per day for men, and quitting smoking. Eat less red and processed meat and fill up your plate with more fruits and vegetables.
If you have a family history of colon cancer, you may also elect to have genetic testing done to evaluate your risk of developing the disease.
Stay on top of your colon health. If you’re in the Greater Houston area, contact GastroDoxs to set up your colon cancer evaluation. Call today or book an appointment online.