Colon Cancer Is On The Rise — How You Can Lower Your Risk

When you think about your health, you might think about things like exer­cise, diet, and how much sleep you get. You may not be as quick to think about your col­orec­tal health. 

While it may not be the first thing on your mind when you think of your health, it’s one that is becom­ing more important. 

You may have heard peo­ple talk­ing about how col­orec­tal can­cer cas­es are going up, but is that true — and what can you do to low­er your risk?

Is Colon Can­cer On The Rise?

Since the 1980s, few­er peo­ple have been diag­nosed with col­orec­tal can­cer (can­cer that starts in the colon or rec­tum) annu­al­ly. Over­all, the diag­no­sis rate has dropped by 46% and the colon can­cer death rate has dropped by 57%. But there are some groups where the rates of col­orec­tal can­cer are on the rise.

For young adults under the age of 50, col­orec­tal can­cer rates have been going up 1 to 2% every year start­ing in the 1990s. Today, 20% of new colon can­cer diag­noses occur in peo­ple under the age of 55. This means peo­ple are being diag­nosed younger and more often. Peo­ple are also being diag­nosed with more aggres­sive can­cers. Six­ty per­cent of patients diag­nosed with colon can­cer have an advanced stage of the dis­ease — up 8% since the mid-2000s.

Experts aren’t entire­ly sure why col­orec­tal can­cer rates among younger adults are going up. Some think it may have to do with an increase in unhealthy habits, like smok­ing, poor diet, or lack of exer­cise. Some researchers think it may have to do with oth­er fac­tors in our phys­i­cal envi­ron­ment, like chem­i­cals and pes­ti­cides. And still, oth­er researchers are look­ing inward at gut bac­te­ria and oth­er changes in the body.

While med­ical experts haven’t yet pin­point­ed exact­ly what might be the link between younger adults and high­er col­orec­tal can­cer rates, that shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. Under­stand­ing more about can­cer through research grows every day, and med­ical experts con­tin­ue learn­ing more and more about this dis­ease and its causes.

Source: Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety

What Can I Do To Low­er My Risk For Col­orec­tal Cancer?

While colon can­cer is becom­ing a more com­mon form of can­cer for adults under 50, there are still many steps you can take to low­er your indi­vid­ual risk. One of the best things you can do for your­self to pro­tect your col­orec­tal health is to get screened for col­orec­tal can­cer with a colonoscopy. The Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­ety (in 2018) and the US Pre­ven­ta­tive Task Force (in 2021) have both changed their screen­ing rec­om­men­da­tions to start screen­ing at the age of 45 years old.

A colonoscopy is a spe­cif­ic kind of can­cer screen­ing that allows your provider to view your large intes­tine, which includes your rec­tum and colon. When you get a colonoscopy, your doc­tor will use a cam­era to look for any poten­tial health con­cerns like tumors, polyps, ulcers, or inflammation.

You may be won­der­ing, How can a colonoscopy pre­vent col­orec­tal can­cer? Isn’t it meant to show you col­orec­tal cancer?” 

In real­i­ty, many polyps that your doc­tor might find are actu­al­ly pre­can­cer­ous, mean­ing they haven’t turned into can­cer yet. Pre­can­cer­ous polyps are very com­mon and — very treat­able. By catch­ing a polyp ear­ly, your doc­tor can remove it, so it can’t turn into cancer.

Sched­ule your first colonoscopy today by call­ing 630−717−2600.

Oth­er healthy choic­es can also sup­port your over­all health and reduce your risk for col­orec­tal can­cer. In addi­tion to get­ting rou­tine colono­scopies after you’ve turned 45, you can also low­er your risk by: 

  • Keep­ing a con­sis­tent exer­cise routine 

  • Adding more veg­gies, fruits, and whole grains to your diet 

  • Quit­ting unhealthy habits like smok­ing cig­a­rettes or drinking 

Am I At A High­er Risk For Col­orec­tal Cancer?

You can’t con­trol every aspect of your health, and some peo­ple just have a high­er risk for col­orec­tal can­cer than oth­ers. Hav­ing a high­er risk doesn’t mean that you are guar­an­teed a diag­no­sis and know­ing your poten­tial risk fac­tors isn’t meant to make you panic. 

You have a high­er risk for col­orec­tal can­cer if you:

  • Have a fam­i­ly his­to­ry of col­orec­tal can­cer or polyps

  • Have a genet­ic dis­or­der that increas­es your risk of col­orec­tal can­cer like Lynch syndrome

  • Have a per­son­al med­ical his­to­ry of inflam­ma­to­ry bow­el dis­ease, ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis, or Crohn’s disease 

  • Are male

  • Are African American

Know­ing the risk fac­tors that may be in your or your family’s med­ical his­to­ry can help you work with your provider to deter­mine your screen­ing needs. You may need to get your first colonoscopy soon­er or get your rou­tine colono­scopies more often.

For exam­ple, if there is a his­to­ry of col­orec­tal can­cer in your fam­i­ly — espe­cial­ly your imme­di­ate fam­i­ly — your pri­ma­ry care provider may encour­age you to sched­ule your first colonoscopy at what­ev­er age is 10 years younger than your fam­i­ly member’s diagnosis.

Pro­tect Your Col­orec­tal Health With Duly 

In many cas­es, col­orec­tal can­cer doesn’t show any signs until it has become more seri­ous, so it’s impor­tant to take note of your risk fac­tors and talk to your doc­tor about any changes in your bow­el movements. 

Talk­ing about col­orec­tal can­cer, colono­scopies, or this part of your body can feel embar­rass­ing, but your Duly provider is here to sup­port you. When you know your risk fac­tors and sched­ule your rou­tine can­cer screen­ings, your provider can make the best rec­om­men­da­tions and help you bet­ter under­stand your col­orec­tal health. 

Wor­ried about your first colonoscopy? Check out our blog on how to pre­pare.

  • As your physician, I consider it my privilege to walk alongside of you as you navigate through your health issues. My goal is to help you gain a better understanding of your digestive system and how it can affect your daily life, using clinically based evidence to help find answers and preventive measures that will lead to a better quality of life.