Colon Cancer Risk Factors – Age, Ethnicity, Habits & More

Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer death in the United States. On average, your chances of developing colon cancer are one in 20, but your individual risk depends on several factors. March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month, so let’s learn more about the risk factors for colon cancer.

Colon Cancer Risk Factors Beyond Our Control

There are several risk factors for colon cancer that you cannot change, but it is important to be aware of them so you can discuss them with your doctor.

  • Age — Nine out of ten new cases of colon cancer develop in individuals over the age of 50.
  • Personal or Family History of Colon Cancer or Colon Polyps — If you or a first-degree relative has ever had colon cancer or an adenoma (colon polyp), you are more likely to develop cancer of the colon or rectum.
  • History of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) — Having IBD, including Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, puts you at higher risk, especially if it goes untreated.
  • Having an Inherited Syndrome — The most common inherited syndromes associated with colon cancers are Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer or HNPCC) and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
  • Racial and Ethnic Background — African Americans have the highest colon cancer incidence and mortality rates in the United States.
  • Type II Diabetes — Colon cancer and type II diabetes share some similar risk factors like inactivity and obesity.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors We CAN Control

Several risk factors for colon cancer can be limited or eliminated when you have the proper support.

  • Obesity or Being Overweight — If you struggle with weight, especially weight around your waistline, you are at higher risk for colon cancer. Talk to your doctor for help managing your weight.
  • Sedentary Lifestyle — Increasing your physical activity can lower your risk for colon cancer, even just walking each day.
  • Diet — Eating red meat, processed meats and high-fat foods put you at higher risk for colon disease. Replace high-fat and processed foods with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins.
  • Smoking — When you smoke, you increase your risk for colon cancer as well as lung cancer. Quitting smoking will provide immediate health benefits.
  • Heavy Alcohol Use — Limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day if you are male and no more than one drink per day if you are female (source: American Cancer Society).

You can’t control all risk factors for colon cancer, but you can control your habits. Changing daily choices regarding diet, smoking, drinking and activity level could make all the difference in whether you develop the disease. Talk to a gastroenterologist about more healthy living tips to keep you cancer-free. Limiting your risk factors can help you maximize your health and longevity!

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