Health Blogs

Colorectal Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention

The colon and rectum are part of the large intestine. Cancer is a disease characterized by out-of-control cell growth. According to recent studies, around 4 per 100000 people suffer from colon cancer in India. It is the 8th most common cancer in men and 9th most common in women. In this blog, you will learn about the factors that increase one’s chances of developing cancer of this organ, and what one can do to reduce the chances of its occurrence.

Colorectal Cancer

Risk Factors:

Risk factors often influence the development of cancer, but most do not directly cause cancer. This means that several people with many risk factors never develop cancer, and some people with no risk factors do. Knowledge of these risk factors help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

About 95% of colorectal cancers are sporadic, meaning the genetic changes develop by chance after the person in born, so there is no risk of passing these genetic changes on to one’s children. About 5%are familial and occur when gene mutations are passed within a family from one generation to the next.

Most often, the cause of colorectal cancer is not known, but the following are known to increase one’s chances:

  • Age: The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% occur in people older than 50 years.
  • Gender: The risk in slightly higher in males.
  • Family history of colorectal cancer: This cancer may run in the family if a first-degree relative or many other family members (more distant blood relatives) have had colorectal cancer. This is especially true is the family member developed the cancer at an early age. If you have a family history of cancer, you should consult an oncologist who will discuss genetic testing along with a genetic counselor.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Polyps: Polyps are not cancer, but some polyps called adenomas can develop into cancers over time. Colonoscopy for screening, especially in people with high risk or people with symptoms help to detect and treat these early.
  • Personal history of certain types of cancer: People who have had ovarian or uterine cancer are more likely to develop colorectal cancer.
  • Physical inactivity and obesity: An inactive lifestyle and being overweight increase one’s risk.
  • Diet: Red meat and processed meat are linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking: Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to die from colorectal cancer than nonsmokers.

Prevention of Colon Cancer:

Although there is no way to completely prevent this disease, you may be able to lower your risk by talking to your doctor about your personal risk of colorectal cancer. Early detection of polyps, screening by colonoscopy, and genetic counseling may decrease one’s risk. The following may lower one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer:

  • Diet and supplements: A diet rich in fruits and vegetable and low in red meat may help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Calcium and vitamin D supplementation have also been shown to lower the risk.
  • Aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Studies have suggested that drugs such as aspirin and other NSAIDs reduce the risk of developing polyps. But they have side-effects and does not substitute regular screening.
  • Curcumin: Increasing evidence is emerging regarding the role of turmeric in the prevention of disease such as colorectal cancer. Evidence-based preparations are available.