Colon Cancer Facts

What is Colorectal Cancer?

  • Almost all cases of colorectal cancer, also referred to as colon cancer, begin with the development of benign colonic polyps.
  • Polyps form when cells lining the colon grow, divide, and reproduce in an unhealthy, disorderly way, producing a growth.
  • These polyps can be cancerous, invading the colon wall and surrounding blood vessels, and spread to other parts of the body.
  • Colorectal cancer frequently begins without symptoms.

What Causes Colorectal Cancer?

  • The exact causes of colorectal cancer are unknown, but the disease appears to be caused by both inherited and lifestyle factors.
  • Diets high in fat and low in fruits and vegetables – such as those that include red meat, fried foods, and high-fat dairy products – may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Lifestyle factors – such as cigarette smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity – also may increase the risk of developing the disease.
  • Genetic factors may determine a person’s susceptibility to the disease, where as dietary and other lifestyle factors may determine which at-risk individuals go on to develop the disease.

How Common is Colorectal Cancer?

  • Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, and the third most common cancer overall.
  • This year, more than 50,000 Americans will die from colorectal cancer and approximately 131,600 new cases will be diagnosed.
  • Eight to 90 million Americans (approximately 25 percent of the US population) are considered at risk because of age or other factors.
  • More women over the age of 75 die from colorectal cancer than from breast cancer.

Who Is At Risk?

  • Men and women aged 50 and older are at almost equal risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Those who had a personal or family history of colorectal neoplasia (cancer or polyps) are at high risk of developing the disease.
  • Anyone who has a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease is also at high risk.
  • Although the incidence of colorectal cancer appears to be the same among all racial groups, survival rates seem to be lower for African-Americans.

How Can You Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

  • Know your family history.
  • See your doctor for yearly screening if you are aged 50 or older.
  • Maintain a diet low in animal fat and high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Prevent obesity.
  • Avoid cigarette smoking.

What You Need To Know…

  • Early detection saves lives – colorectal cancer is preventable, even curable when detected early.
  • If colorectal cancer is found early enough, the patient has more than a 90 percent chance of survival.
  • Colorectal cancer screenings are safe and effective and are now covered by Medicare and an increasing umber of other health providers.
  • Several screening methods can be used to detect polyps before they become cancerous, such as fecal occult blood test, colonoscopy, flexible sigmoidoscopy, and barium x-ray.  These tests also can detect cancer in its early stage.

Source: American Gastroenterological Association