Ilyas Memon, MD

Who Is at Risk for Colon Cancer?

May 04, 2022

Who Is at Risk for Colon Cancer?

Even if you don’t have any of the risk factors for colon cancer, you could develop the disease. However, some things make it more likely. In this post, we discuss specific factors that raise your risk of developing colon cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, with 106,180 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in 2022, and 44,850 of rectal cancer. Happily, those numbers have been declining since the 1980s. Part of the reason is because of increased screening, and part is related to the fact that people are doing more to control risk factors related to lifestyle choices. 

At Texas Digestive Disease Consultants, Dr. Ilyas Memon and his dedicated staff want to help you understand your personal risk for developing colon cancer and adjust those risks that are within your control. Some factors, such as your age, family history, and sex are things you can’t change, but you can certainly decide whether or not to have a screening — not getting recommended screenings is the biggest risk factor for colon cancer! 

Risk factors and colon cancer

Experts divide risk factors into two general categories: those that you cannot change, which are referred to as fixed, and those you can, which are called modifiable risk factors. Even if you have several fixed risk factors, such as your age, race, or sex, you can adjust your lifestyle to lower your risk. 

Fixed risk factors for colon cancer

No single demographic group has a dramatically higher rate of colon cancer than others, but there are some fixed risk factors, such as: 

  • Age - risk is higher after 50 and continues to rise with age
  • Sex - men tend to develop colon cancer more often than women
  • Race - African Americans have higher rates of colon cancer than other groups
  • Family history - if someone in your family has had colon cancer, your risk is higher
  • Bowel disease - having a condition such as irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease raises your risk 
  • Colon polyps - polyps are benign, but can become malignant tumors over time

Modifiable risk factors for colon cancer

Although changing your lifestyle can be difficult, lowering your risk of colon cancer is worth the effort. Some of the things you can change include: 

  • Living an active lifestyle rather than an sedentary one
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Losing weight if you’re obese
  • Either avoiding or controlling Type 2 diabetes

Some changes can be quite simple. For example, incorporate a daily walk into your routine. Aim to include about 30 minutes of moderate exercise, such as brisk walking at least five days a week. 

Quitting smoking is an important step to take for limiting your risk of colon cancer as well as numerous other conditions. If you’re struggling to quit, talk to our staff. We may be able to direct you to resources that help. 

Limiting alcohol intake, avoiding processed foods, and following your doctor’s instructions to control diabetes are all important ways you can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. 

The most important way to avoid colon cancer: Get screened

Screenings don’t prevent cancer, but they lead to an earlier diagnosis, which is often life-saving. Early detection is crucial, making regular colon cancer screenings incredibly important. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends beginning regular screenings for colon cancer at age 45. The age was recently dropped from 50 to 45 to catch more cases earlier. Multiple types of screenings are available, including colonoscopy, stool tests, CT colonography, and flexible sigmoidoscopy. Dr. Memon recommends the type of screening best for you based on your personal health history. 

If you’re nearing age 45, or you have concerning risk factors, schedule your appointment at Texas Digestive Disease Consultants today. Our staff is happy to discuss your situation and talk to you about your personal risk of developing colon cancer.