Colon cancer is a matter of concern because it is the second most common cause of death related to cancer, and it can easily be prevented. Regular screening can help detect the presence of malignant clumps of cells and a colonoscopy can remove the clumps during screening itself. Those who are at a higher risk should undergo screening periodically to nip the bud of colon cancer in its nascent stage.
Risk factors that increase the chances of colon cancer
Some risk factors for colon cancer are genetic whereas others are based on lifestyle.
Although colorectal cancer can occur at any age, in 95% of the cases patients are over 45 years of age. Thus usually, tests and screenings are recommended after 50 years of age, when the risk for colorectal cancer is high.
- Family history
A history of cancer, especially of the colon, in the family increases the chances of colorectal cancer. The reason could either be genes that are inherited or exposure to similar environmental factors or it could be a combination of various factors. But family history determines the age for colorectal cancer screening and other preventative measures.
- Ethnicity and racial background
The occurrence of colorectal cancer has been found to be the highest in the African American population of America. Similarly, the risk for colon cancer is high in Ashkenazi Jews. These races and ethnic backgrounds might be recommended to go in for a colonoscopy around the age of 50 if there are no other risk factors.
- Inherited syndromes
Hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer and familial adenomatous polyposis are two commonly known inherited syndromes that are linked to colon cancer. Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, and Turcot syndrome are other inherited syndromes that increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Lifestyle choices
Those leading a sedentary and inactive lifestyle are at risk of developing colon cancer. In the same vein, obesity also increases the chances of developing the cancer. Also, habits such as heavy alcohol consumption and smoking increase the chances of developing colorectal cancer. A diet rich in processed or red meat, such as lamb, beef, and hot dogs, also increases the risk. Cooking meat by broiling, grilling, or frying it at high temperatures can lead to the formation of chemicals and thus be a risk factor. A diet rich in high-fiber whole grain, vegetables, and fruits is ideally recommended for better health and to reduce the chances of developing colon cancer.
- Presence or history of medical conditions
Those suffering from or having a history of irritable bowel syndrome, which can include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, have a greater risk of developing colon cancer. The same applies to those who have a history of cancer, either colon or recurrent cancer. Presence of polyps in the body, even though benign or those removed via colonoscopy, increase the chances of colorectal cancer. Patients of type 2 diabetes are also at higher risk for the disease and diabetes interferes with the prognosis as well.
These are the risk factors that are most likely to increase the chances of developing colon cancer. Some of these can be avoided whereas some are genetic reasons that cannot be changed. However, high-risk individuals can be cautious and undergo timely screening or modify lifestyle to reduce the risk.