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Colon Cancer : Understand the Risks

Updated at: Jan 17, 2015
Written by: Meenakshi ChaudharyPublished at: Jun 29, 2013
Colon Cancer : Understand the Risks

There are several risk factors of colonal cancer. Some are changeable others are not. Read here to know if you are at a high risk so that you can get screened at the right time.

Colon cancer is the cancer of the large intestine which is the lower part of the digestive system. The major role of large intestine (colon) is to help absorb the water, nutrients and minerals from food. The colon also helps in getting rid of the waste in the form of the stool. Researchers have found several risk factors that can increase a person’s chances of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer which is commonly known as colon cancer.
colon cancer

The risk factors of colon cancer include :

Age -About 9 out of 10 people diagnosed with colon cancer are at least 50 year old. However, it does not rule out the chances of younger people getting the disease. But older people are at a higher risk.

Personal history of colorectal cancer- If you have had colon cancer before, even if it has been completely removed; you are more likely to develop more cancers in other areas of colon and rectum. The chances increase if the initial cancer happened in younger age.

cancer cells

Personal history of bowel diseases- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) is a condition in which the colon is inflamed over a long period of time. A person who has had IBD for many years can develop dysplacia (abnormal cells in the lining of colon or rectum but not true cancer cells). Dysplacia can change into cancer in no time.

Inflammatory bowel disease is different from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), which is not a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

Family history of colorectal cancer- If someone from your family has been affected by the colon cancer; it puts you at a 1 in 5 chances of getting the disease. But most people diagnosed with this cancer do not have a family history with it.

People with a history of colonal cancer in one or more first-degree relatives (parents, siblings or children) are at an increased risk. The risk is doubled if there is only one affected first-degree relative and multiplies if the relatives were affected at a younger age than 45.Those with a family history of colonal cancer should consult a doctor and start regular screening at the age of 50. If you have been affected by the disease, you must inform you relatives so that they can start their screening at the right age.

Inherited syndromes- About 5% to 10% of people who develop colorectal cancer have inherited gene defects that cause the disease. These defects lead to cancer at a young age.

It is important to check the medical history of your family because several types of cancers can be linked with these syndromes. Not just that of first-degree relatives but medical histories of distant relatives should also be considered. People with abnormal gene should get genetic counseling to know about prevention from colon cancer.

Other Factors which causes colon cancer

Apart from the above factors, some other factors which can increase the risk of colon cancer include:

Racial and ethnic background- In the US, African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer instances and mortality rates of all racial groups. The reason for this has not yet been understood. Though worldwide, Jews of Eastern European descent have one of the highest colorectal cancer risks of any other ethnic group. Several gene mutations found in his group is understood to be the main reason of this.Type 2 diabetes- Both type 2 diabetes and colonal cancer share the same risk factors (like excess weight) which puts diabetics (non-insulin dependent) at a higher risk of colonal cancer. They also tend to have a favourable outlook after diagnosis.

lifestyle-related risk factors of colonal cancer

Certain diets- Red and processed meats (like beef, lamb, liver or hot dogs) can alleviate the chances of getting colonal cancer. It happens because meats are cooked at high temperatures which create chemicals in them.

Easily digestible food products such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains are believed to be safe from the risk factors’ list.

Obesity- Being overweight puts you in the wrong side of getting and dying of colorectal cancer. The risk seems to be higher in men than women.


Smoking- Smoking has always done badly to the smoker. This well-known cause of lung cancer can sometimes dissolve into the saliva of the smoker and if swallowed, can cause colonal cancer.

Alcohol- Alcoholics have low levels of folic acid in their bodies which might trigger colonal cancer in them.

Physical inactivity- Physically fir individual keeps a lot of health problem at side. This holds true in the case of colonal cancer also.

Though some of the above mentioned risk factors of colonal cancer cannot be helped, others depend on your choices. Be careful of what you choose.

Image Courtesy: Getty

Read more articles on Understand Cancer


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