Colon Cancer

Colon cancer includes the large intestine and the rectum. Because they share so many common features, colon cancer and rectal cancer are often grouped together and called colorectal cancers. For both men and women, colorectal cancers are the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States.

What are the chances?

More than 135,000 people will get colorectal cancer in the United States this year. About one in 21 men and one in 23 women will get the disease during their lifetimes. It is the third leading cause of cancer death in women, and the second leading cause of cancer death in men. However, the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping steadily over the last few decades, most likely due to better screening and treatment.

Common Symptoms:

  • A change in bowel habits (such as diarrhea, constipation or narrow stools) lasting more than a few days
  • A persistent urge to have a bowel movement that doesn’t go away after you have one
  • Bleeding of the rectum
  • Blood in the stool (bright red or dark)
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Bloating or a feeling of being full and/or increased abdominal size
  • Anemia
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Nausea or vomiting

Genetic predisposition:

Having an inherited syndrome associated with colorectal cancers, including:

  • MUTYH-associated polyposis
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Familial adenomatous polyposis
  • Turcot syndrome
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome

*Genetic testing can help identify inherited gene changes that increase your risk of colorectal cancer*

Risk Factors:

  • Having a genetic/inherited syndrome associated with colorectal cancers
  • Age (Colorectal cancer risk is more common after age 50.)
  • History of colorectal polyps
  • History of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Family history of colorectal polyps
  • Family history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium or breast
  • Being of African-American or Ashkenazi Jewish descent

Lifestyle Factors:

  • Overweight or obesity, especially excess fat around the waist
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Drinking alcohol excessively
  • Diet high in red, processed or charred meats
  • Low vitamin D levels

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