March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and turns out there's quite a lot to be aware of when it comes to managing your risk factors.
Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States. Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 23 (4.4 percent) for men and 1 in 25 (4.1 percent) for women.
Younger adults can develop colorectal cancer, but the chances increase markedly after age 50 — that's when more than 9 out of 10 people are diagnosed.
In the meantime, be aware of the common risk factors:
- Being overweight. Obesity raises the risk of colon cancer in both men and women, but the link seems to be stronger in men.
- Family history. As many as 1 in 5 people who develop colorectal cancer have other family members who have been affected by this disease.
- Heavy alcohol use. Colorectal cancer has been linked to the heavy use of alcohol. At least some of this may be due to the fact that heavy alcohol users tend to have low levels of folic acid in the body. Still, alcohol use should be limited to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
- Sedentary lifestyle. If you are not physically active, you have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer. Increasing activity may help reduce your risk.
- Type 2 diabetes. Both type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer share some of the same risk factors (such as excess weight). But even after taking these into account, people with type 2 diabetes still have an increased risk. They also tend to have a less favorable outlook after diagnosis.
- Race. African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups in the United States. The reasons for this are not yet understood.
A polyp can take as many as 10 to 15 years to develop into cancer. With regular screenings, doctors can find and remove polyps before they have the chance to turn into cancer.
Once you take Methodist Health System's free risk assessment, you can opt to receive a personalized report with information about your health, periodic health-related e-mails, and an opportunity to speak with a member of Methodist's physician referral team.