Are You at Risk for Colon Cancer?
There are a number of risk factors that figure in to your susceptibility to colon cancer, but the truth is that each of us, no matter what our background or current health status, is at risk and most of the people who are diagnosed with colon cancer have no specific risk factors. That’s why it’s important that you know the warning signs and are aware of what the risk factors are so that you can discuss them with your health care provider.
One of the high risk categories for developing colon cancer is people over 50 years of age, and the risk increases with each decade after that. Also, women are at greater risk for colon cancer than men, although men are at higher risk to be diagnosed with rectal cancer. Here are some other risk categories for colon cancer:
- Medical history Women who have experienced other cancers such as ovarian and breast are at greater risk to develop colon cancer. Those who have inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis are also at risk. If you’ve had colon and/or colorectal cancer once, it may come back again.
- Family If you’re a parent, brother, sister or child of a person who has been diagnosed with colon cancer, you’re more likely to develop it.
- Polyps These are non-cancerous lumps found on the wall of the colon, but even though they’re non-cancerous, they can lead to colon or rectal cancer. Adenomas, a type of polyp, increases the risk factor.
- Diabetes Diabetics have an increased risk of developing colon cancer.
- Smoking and alcohol Smoking is definitely a high risk factor for getting colon cancer. Alcohol should be drunk in moderation or not at all.
- Diet and exercise High fat in your diet increases the risk of colon cancer as does obesity. Your diet should include high fiber — and exercise should be a part of your daily routine.
Don’t think you’ll definitely get colon cancer if you have one or even more of these risk factors, but do discuss them with your doctor and begin to change your lifestyle so that you minimize the risks. Some people who seem to be at extremely high risk for developing colon cancer won’t get it, and others who seem at almost no risk will be diagnosed with colon cancer — researchers can’t explain why.
Scheduling a screening for colon cancer should be an important part of your medical examinations if you’re over 50 years of age. Your health care provider can advise you how often a colonoscopy should be scheduled. At that time, polyps can be easily removed and you and your doctor can discuss the results and possible actions you can take to lower the risk of hearing a diagnosis of colon cancer.