It’s Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Like many cancers, early detection is instrumental in positive outcomes. More than 90% of colon cancer cases can be prevented with the recommended screens, which usually begin around age 50. It’s one of the most treatable cancers if caught early, and it’s one of the most easily detected.
According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, these are potential risk factors for developing colon cancer:
- Age over 50. More than 90% of colon cancer cases are diagnosed in people over the age of 50. The average age is 72
- Colon polyps. Those are growths on the inner wall of the colon or rectum. They’re common and most are benign, but some become cancerous. Removing polyps when they’re detected may reduce the risk of developing cancer.
- Family history of colon cancer. Close relatives (parents, siblings and children) of a person with a history of colon cancer are at a slightly increased risk of developing it themselves.
- Genetic alterations. Changes in certain genes increase risk. HNPCC and FAP are two such alterations.
- A personal history of cancer. If you’ve already had colon cancer, you may have a recurrence. Women with a history of ovarian, uterine or breast cancer are at a somewhat higher risk as well.
- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.
- Diet and lifestyle. Results from studies vary, but some suggest that diets high in red meat and fat, and low in calcium, folate and fiber may contribute to a higher risk of colon cancer.
- Cigarette smoking.
If you believe you are at risk and haven’t yet had a baseline colonoscopy or other screening, talk with your doctor about what’s best for you.