March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month
Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates is making it our top priority to encourage people to make the choice to get screened. Please join us in spreading the word on the importance of colorectal cancer screening!
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men and women in the U.S. and the third most common cancer.1 Colorectal Cancer is very treatable if caught early. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be over 140,000 new cases and over 50,000 deaths this year alone.
Recent research has confirmed what many have suspected–more young people are dying of colorectal cancer. Ten percent of all new colorectal cancer patients are under the age of 50.
Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is: about 1 in 22 (4.49%) for men and 1 in 24 (4.15%) for women.
What Causes Colorectal Cancer?
Researchers have found several factors that can increase a person’s risk of colorectal cancer, but it’s not clear exactly how all of these factors might cause this cancer. Cancer is caused by changes in the DNA inside our cells. DNA is the chemical in our cells that makes up our genes, which control how our cells function.
A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of getting a disease such as cancer. Different cancers have different risk factors. Some risk factors, like smoking, can be changed. Others, like a person’s age or family history, can’t be changed.
But having a risk factor, or even many, does not mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors.
Risk Factors you can change
- Being overweight or obese- If you are overweight or obese, your risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer is higher. Being overweight raises the risk of colon and rectal cancer in both men and women.
- Physical inactivity– If you’re not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colon cancer. Being more active can help lower your risk.
- Certain types of diets– A diet that’s high in red meats (such as beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (like hot dogs and some luncheon meats) can raise your colorectal cancer risk.
- Smoking– People who have smoked tobacco for a long time are more likely than non-smokers to develop and die from colorectal cancer. Smoking is a well-known cause of lung cancer but can be linked to many other cancers too.
- Heavy alcohol use– Colorectal cancer has been linked to moderate to heavy alcohol use. Limiting alcohol use can have many health benefits, including a lower risk of many kinds of cancer.
Colorectal cancer risk factors you cannot change
- Age-Your risk of Colorectal Cancer goes up as you age. Younger adults can develop Colorectal Cancer, but it is more common after age 50.
- A personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer– If you have a history of adenomatous polyps (adenomas), you are at increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. This is especially true if the polyps are large, if there are many of them, or if any of them show dysplasia. Dysplasia is a term used to describe cells in the lining of the colon or rectum that look abnormal but are not true cancer cells. They can change into cancer over time.
- If you’ve had colorectal cancer, even though it was completely removed, you are more likely to develop new cancers in other parts of the colon and rectum. The chances of this happening are greater if you had your first colorectal cancer when you were younger.
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease– If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including either Ulcerative Colitis or Crohn’s disease, your risk of colorectal cancer is increased.
- IBD is a condition in which the colon is inflamed over a long period of time. People who have had IBD for many years, especially if untreated, often develop dysplasia. Inflammatory bowel disease is different from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which does not increase your risk for colorectal cancer.
- A family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps– Most colorectal cancers are found in people without a family history of colorectal cancer. Still, nearly 1 in 3 people who develop colorectal cancer have other family members who have had it.
Don’t wait! Now is the time to have a conversation with the doctors at Hunterdon Gastroenterology Associates about Colon Cancer screening, risks and treatment! Call us at 908-783-4000 to schedule your appointment today!