Colorectal cancer is a disease type where malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues colon or rectum. It is also known as colon or rectal cancer, depending on the location of the cancers in the large intestine. Colorectal Cancer in the United States is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women have a risk of developing colorectal cancer during their lifetime.
Even though most colorectal cancer cases occur in people aged 50 and up, several factors can raise your chances of developing this type of cancer. Some Cancer risk factors can be changed, like smoking or diet, while others, such as family history, can not. Some Colorectal Cancer risk factors include:
Age: Cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but advanced age is a significant risk factor in many individual cancer types. Colorectal cancer can arise in young adults and teenagers, but it is more common in individuals above the age of 50.
Gender: Men possess a slightly higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than women. Men and women are equally at risk of developing colon cancer, but men are more likely to get rectal cancer.
Race: Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality are highest among African Americans compared to those of other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.
Lifestyle: There are many lifestyle-related factors that have been linked to an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Smoking, alcohol use, sedentariness, certain diets, and obesity have some of the strongest links to colorectal cancer.
Polyps: These are growths on the inner lining or wall of the colon or rectum which change into cancer over time. The probability of a polyp becoming cancer is dependent on the type of polyp. The adenomatous polyp (adenomas) is a type of polyp that can change into cancer and is usually viewed as a pre-cancerous polyp.
Personal History: Having a personal history of conditions like but not limited to adenomatous polyps, Inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease), Type 2 Diabetes, Ovarian Cancer, and previous colorectal cancer puts you at a greater and risk of colorectal cancer. Individuals with IBD should screen for Colorectal Cancer as often as deemed necessary by their healthcare professional.
Family History: Certain genes are linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. These unusual genes that allow the growth of caner cells or polyps can sometimes be passed down the family line. This means you have an increased risk if you have a family member with colorectal cancer.
Inherited Genes: There is an increased risk of colorectal cancer when certain gene mutations linked to are inherited. The risk of colorectal cancer is increased with certain gene mutations linked to familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome) are inherited.
If you have a combination of these risk factors and notice symptoms of colorectal cancer such as re4cttal bleeding, weakness, and fatigue, unintended weight loss, abdominal pain/cramps, or changes in bowel habits (diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool) that lasts for more than a couple of days, it is important that you discuss your risks and symptoms with your doctor as soon as possible.