Through years of study, we have learned that certain factors can increase the risk of colon cancer. Having these risk factors does not guarantee a colon cancer diagnosis; however, having these risk factors means one has a higher risk of developing colon cancer. Such individuals should pay extra attention to their health, follow appropriate preventive measures, and opt for regular screening to put themselves a step ahead of colon cancer.
Some risk factors for colon cancer are controllable or lifestyle-related, while others are non-controllable or non-lifestyle-related. Lifestyle-related risk factors can be modified, while non-lifestyle-related factors cannot. The most common colon cancer risk factors include:
The colon cancer risk increases with age. Colon cancer is usually found in people over the age of 50. However, in recent times, there has been an increasing trend in the development of colon cancer in people under 50 years of age.
A sedentary lifestyle, involving a poor diet, limited physical activity, and excessive tobacco and alcohol consumption, increases the risk of colon cancer.
People with immediate relatives who have been diagnosed with colon cancer are at an increased risk of developing it. The risk of colon cancer increases with the number of family members diagnosed with the disease. Further, patients with a personal history of colon cancer also have an increased recurrence risk.
Patients with inflammatory bowel disease have persistent pain and inflammation in the bowel. The conditions include Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Having these conditions is one of the colon cancer risk factors.
DNA alterations that increase the risk of colon cancer are sometimes inherited. The common genetic conditions that increase the risk of colon cancer include Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, and familial adenomatous polyposis.
Individuals on a typical Western diet have an increased risk of developing colon cancer. The Western diet is high in calories and fat and low in fiber. Individuals who regularly consume processed meat, red meat, highly processed carbohydrates, sugary foods, etc., are at a higher risk of colon cancer.
People with obesity are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer and succumbing to it. This is because fat accumulation leads to hormonal imbalance and inflammation, which can trigger tumor formation.
Those who lead a sedentary life also have an increased colon cancer risk. Lack of physical activity increases fat accumulation and obesity, leading to an increased likelihood of colon cancer.
Smokers have a higher risk of developing more numerous and larger colon polyps. It has been found that the risk of colon cancer occurrence is higher in individuals who smoke than in those with a family history of colon cancer.
People who consume moderate to heavy alcohol have a 1.2–1.5 times increased risk for colon cancer compared to people who do not consume alcohol.
Type 2 diabetes increases the risk of colon cancer due to hyperinsulinemia, gastrointestinal motility disorders, and adipose tissue dysfunction.
Those who have received radiation treatment in the past, especially to treat cancer in the abdominal region, are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.
Environmental factors, such as exposure to harmful toxins, occupational exposure, food intake, and colon cancer awareness, affect the overall risk of colon cancer.
“How to avoid colon cancer?” or “How to prevent colon cancer?” is one question that oncologists around the world are asked every day.
The answer to this question is that there is no known way to prevent colon cancer. However, it is possible to reduce the risk of colon cancer with certain measures. The following measures are found to improve the chances of colon cancer prevention:
Regular screening is one of the most effective measures that can improve the chances of colon cancer prevention. Colon cancer often starts as polyps, and it takes 10 to 15 years for these polyps to become cancerous. Regular screening is especially recommended for high-risk individuals. For more information on the screening tests available for colon cancer and their frequency, one must talk to a specialist.
Incorporating fresh fruits and vegetables into the daily diet reduces the risk of colon cancer. A fiber-rich diet, antioxidants, and whole grains help in the possible prevention of colon cancer.
People who are obese should opt for healthy weight management by limiting calorie intake, consuming a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. People with healthy weight should maintain weight to reduce the risk of colon cancer.
Limiting alcohol consumption can aid in the potential prevention of colon cancer.
Quitting smoking reduces the risk of colon cancer significantly. Numerous studies have reported that non-smokers are at a lower risk of colon cancer than former and current smokers.
Studies suggest a link between adequate water consumption and reduced risk of colon cancer. The mechanism involves early evacuation of the potential carcinogens from the intestine with adequate water intake.
Physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, lowering the risk of colon cancer.
Several conditions enhance the likelihood of colon cancer. These include obesity, type 2 diabetes, and inflammatory bowel disease. Efficient management of these conditions helps individuals lower their risk of colon cancer.
Minimal or no exposure to environmental pollutants, such as water pollution, air pollution, chemicals in food and soil, and pesticides, reduces the colon cancer risk.
Colon carcinoma may develop in any person. However, some individuals are at increased risk of developing colon cancer. These include individuals with polyps, inflammatory bowel disease, radiation exposure, and inherited medical conditions such as Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, Lynch syndrome, and familial adenomatous polyposis.
Colon cancer risk factors include older age, underlying medical conditions such as Lynch syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis, obesity, type 2 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, a lack of physical activity, and radiation exposure. There are no measures for colon cancer prevention. However, some factors, such as the management of other medical conditions, maintaining a healthy weight, and performing adequate physical activity, may help reduce colon cancer risk.