In honor of March being Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we are sharing the key risk factors for colon cancer. Colon cancer is sometimes called “the silent killer” because symptoms often don’t present themselves until later stages. That’s why it’s so important to get regular screenings after the age of 50—even if you have no other risk factors.
Colorectal cancer refers to cancer of the colon or rectum. The exact cause is not yet known, but the following risk factors may increase the chance that a person will develop this disease:
- Age. The chances of developing colorectal cancer increase after age 50. In fact, more than 90% of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are at least 50 years old.
- Family history. Having close relatives (parents, siblings or children) who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer increases your likelihood of having it. If you are at a higher risk, your physician may recommend screenings for you before the age of 50.
- Personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer. A polyp is a growth that develops on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some polyps may become cancerous. If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the past, the disease may reoccur.
- Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease. Other risk factors include eating diets high in fat and red meat, lack of exercise, smoking, and bowel disorders such as Crohn’s disease. Although some risk factors, such as age and family history, cannot be avoided, other factors are within your control.
Of course, the biggest risk anyone can take when it comes to colorectal cancer is not getting screened. Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., but it has a 90% survival rate when caught early enough. Talk to your doctor about scheduling an appointment today.