Who is Most at Risk for Colon Cancer?

Colon cancer develops from polyps in the digestive tract. These polyps start out benign but eventually develop into cancerous tumors. The cancer cells destroy neighboring tissue and may eventually metastasize, forming additional tumors in other areas of the body.

Colon cancer is preventable and treatable in its early stages. The disease can be detected early on through screening performed by a gastroenterologist. For individuals presenting normal risk, University Endoscopy Group recommends colonoscopies beginning at age of 50.

Read on to learn which risk factors increase the chances of developing colon cancer.

Diet
Some studies show that diets high in fat, particularly animal fat, and low in fiber and calcium may contribute to colon cancer risk. People who eat few vegetables and fruits may have a higher chance of developing the disease. Researchers continue to work to understand the role diet plays in the development of colon cancer.

Weight
Obesity increases the risk of colon cancer. Abdominal obesity, measured by waist circumference, shows a strong link to colon cancer risk. Some experts believe that increased levels of insulin in overweight people may contribute to the development of colon cancer.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Inflammatory bowel disease, or IBD, results from abnormal developments in the digestive tract. Individuals who have had IBD 10 years or longer have an increased likelihood of developing colon cancer.

Age
Growths in the colon or rectum become more common as people age. Most people diagnosed with colon cancer are over 50, and according to the National Cancer Institute, the average age for diagnosis is 72. Younger people can also develop colon cancer, however.

Personal Medical History
Individuals who have had colon cancer once may develop it again. Women who have had cancer of the breast, ovary or uterus have a slightly elevated chance of developing colon cancer.

Family History
An individual with a child, sibling or parent who has had colon cancer is at higher risk of developing the disease. The risk is heightened if the relative had colon cancer at an early age. Having a number of close family members with colon cancer further increases the risk.

Anyone experiencing one or more increased risks factors should consult a gastroenterology doctor and undergo a colonoscopy before the age of 50. It’s never too soon to assure colon health.