What You Need to Know About Colon Cancer

an older man and woman biking together in the Fall

Colon and rectal cancer awareness is important because approximately 90 percent of colorectal cancers are thought to be preventable.

Other than skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosis among men and women in the United States.

Studies show that 1 in 20 Americans develop colorectal cancer during their lifetime.

What is Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer is the third most common type of cancer in both men and women, and is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States.

Most colon tumors begin when normal tissue forms a polyp, or pre-cancerous growth projecting from the wall of the colon. As the polyp grows, a tumor forms. Because the tumor grows slowly, early detection is possible through screening and tests.

Colon cancer is often combined with rectal cancer and can be referred to as “colorectal cancer.”

Risk Factors for Colon Cancer

Some risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

• Over the age of 50
• Personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
• Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
• Family history of colorectal cancer
• Inherited syndromes
o FAP – familial adenomatous polyposis
o HNPCC – hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer also known as Lynch syndrome
o Juvenile polyposis
o Peutz-Jegher
o MYH gene
• Racial and ethnic background – African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews
• Lifestyle factors
o Diet high in red meats and processed meats
o Physical inactivity
o Obesity
o Smoking
o Heavy alcohol use
o Type 2 diabetes

Screening and Prevention of Colon Cancer

Regular screening exams such as colonoscopies can prevent colorectal cancer. During colonoscopies, any abnormal cells that begin as polyps can be found and removed before they become cancerous. Screening can also result in early detection of colorectal cancer when it is highly curable.

Screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 50 for those with no identified risk factor other than age. People with a family history or other risk factors should talk to their doctor about starting screening when they are younger.

If you have an early onset of colon polyps, colon cancer, or multiple family members with colon polyps or colon and uterine cancer, you should consider genetic counseling and testing.

If you or a loved one are at risk for colorectal cancer and would like to learn more, call 215-615-2580 or download our free cancer prevention guide.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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