Cancer Pro is proud to support Colon Cancer Awareness. In 2020 over 1.0 million new Colon Cancer or as it is sometimes referred to; Colorectal Cancer cases were diagnosed worldwide, and in Malaysia, the figure stood at 6,597.
Today 1 in 23 men and 1 in 25 women run the risk of being affected by Colon Cancer. Even though colorectal cancer is linked to getting older, it is on the rise in adults younger than age 50, so it’s essential to get checked now.
What is Colon Cancer?
The term colon cancer is sometimes used interchangeably with colorectal cancer because colon and rectal cancers share standard features.
The rectum and colon make up the large intestine, and in most instances, colon cancers are caused by growths within the colon’s inner lining, called polyps. The chance of a polyp developing into cancer depends on factors, like the type of polyp (adenomatous polyps, which are considered precancerous) or if it has abnormal cells (called dysplasia).
Through routine screenings, most polyps can be found and removed before they turn into cancer. Typical screening tests may include visual tests (colonoscopy) and at-home stool tests (fecal immunochemical test).
The Causes of Colon Cancer
The chance of a person developing colon cancer increases as they get older, especially those over the age of 50. Furthermore, having type 2 diabetes or inflammatory bowel disease (for example, ulcerative colitis) or a or family history of colon cancer can also increase a person’s risk of developing the disease; some modifiable risk factors like being overweight, having a diet rich in red and processed meats can also increase the risk.
Common risks associated with Colon Cancer
As you would expect, many factors increase a person’s risk for developing colon cancer; some are within a person’s control. While in contrast, others like age, ethnicity, race, or genetics are not.
Age is the number one risk factor associated with colon cancer. According to various global studies, more than 90% of colon cancers occur in people aged 50 and over.
Having said that, young adults can get colon cancer too. In fact, colon cancer incidence in young people aged 20 to 39 is increasing, and experts are unsure why. Moreover, contrary to popular belief, most colon cancers in young people are not linked to genetic syndromes but occur sporadically.
Type 2 Diabetes
On-going research worldwide has consistently shown a link between type 2 diabetes and colon cancer development.
Obesity and being overweight
There is a strong link between colon cancer and obesity. People who are obese are over 30% more likely to develop this type of cancer than people of average weight. However, the good news is that regular physical activity can protect you from developing colon cancer and help you to lose weight.
Ethnicity and Race
Ethnicity is also a well-known factor associated with cancer risk. For example, African Americans are more likely to develop and die from colon cancer than Caucasians. Simultaneously, people of Jewish eastern European descent are another high-risk group for getting colon cancer.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Not to be confused with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which does not increase a person’s risk of developing colon cancer. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is characterised by conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Both are associated with colon cancer development, and disease duration is a significant risk factor for identifying who (with IBD) is most at risk.
In addition to disease duration, people with more extensive colitis (colon inflammation) are at a higher risk. People whose entire colon is diseased (called pan-colitis) are, more specifically, at the highest risk of developing colon cancer.
It’s important to note that colon cancer runs in families, and research has shown that one in four colon cancer cases has some genetic link. So if you have a first-degree family member (brother, sister, father, mother, child) with colon cancer or polyps, your risk of developing colon cancer will be increased significantly.
Lifestyle risks related to colon cancer
Whilst you are unlikely to have any influence on the likes of age, ethnicity and genetics when it comes to colon cancer, there are several lifestyle risks that you can control and reduce significantly.
Alcohol is considered to be one of the significant risk factors for colon cancer, and the risk is directly linked to the amount of alcohol consumed. So much so that even moderate alcohol consumption may put a person at risk.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association‘, smokers are 18 per cent more likely to develop colon cancer than someone who never smoked. A person’s risk of developing colon cancer increases proportionately with the number of years they have been smoking; however, the good news is that their colon cancer risk decreases as soon as they stop smoking.
Diets high in fat and cholesterol, especially red meats, such as beef, lamb, and pork, have been linked to colon cancer. Research has also found that eating more than an ounce and a half of processed meat per day can also increase the risk of death due to colon cancer.
While there are no “set in stone” guidelines for exactly how much red or processed meat you can eat to avoid increasing your colon cancer risk. The World Cancer Research Fund does suggest consuming less than 500 grams of red meat per week and eating minimal amounts of processed meats, but eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to lower your risk of getting colon cancer.
Colon Cancer – Symptoms & Signs
Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms of colon cancer tend not to be specific. In other words, the signs and symptoms can occur due to several different conditions. When colon cancer is detected in its early stages, it may not have even caused symptoms. It varies according to the precise location within the colon and where the tumour is located.
Some of the symptoms and signs of colon cancer include
- Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
- Dark-coloured stool
- Changes in bowel habits
- Change in stool consistency
- Anemia – is low levels of iron in the body.
- Constipation or a feeling that the bowels don’t empty completely
- Diarrhea and narrow stools
Colon Cancer Prevention
Your initial step in colon cancer prevention is always talking with your doctor about when you should get screened, whether with a colonoscopy or at-home stool-based test. Depending on your risk factors, like your age and whether you have a family history of colon cancer or polyps, your doctor will determine when screening should begin.
In the meantime, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, limiting your consumption of red and processed meats, and avoiding excess alcohol intake are also important ways to lower your risk of this disease.
About Cancer Pro
Cancer Pro is the voice of the world’s cancer physicians and oncology professionals in Malaysia and is the trusted compassionate resource for people with cancer, their families and caregivers. For more information regarding all aspects of Colon cancer along with the treatments available, please visit www.cancer-pro.com.