In March of 2014, the American Cancer Society (ACS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worked together to establish the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT). The goal of the NCCRT is to encourage higher rates of regular screening for colorectal cancers — an initiative that continues to progress and thankfully work, with communities seeing 80% screening rates and even higher .
There is no doubt about it — regular screening for colon cancer, and other cancers, can help save lives, and so can knowing more about the cancer itself and the risk factors associated with it. This includes the unavoidable risk factors such as age, race, or inflammatory bowel disease, each of which may have an impact on how often, and how early, you should get screened.
What are the risk factors associated with colon cancer?
Not taking into account skin cancers, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States. And, although the rate of cases has dropped each year since the ’80s, the ACS notes that this downward trend is in older adults and cases have actually been on the rise in those younger than 50 .
Considering this, and the decision made by the ACS in 2018 to lower the screening age from 50 to 45, knowing the unpreventable risk factors associated with colon cancer is a step in the right direction.
Historically, a person’s risk of colorectal cancer rises as they age and colon cancer is usually more common in those aged 50 years and over. However, colorectal cancer rates are rising in those younger than 50 which is why the screening age was lowered to 45.
In the United States, African Americans have the highest rates of colorectal cancer in comparison to all other racial groups in the country. In fact, statistics show that African Americans are 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer than other groups .
#3 Family history
The risk of developing colon cancer tends to be higher if you have a blood relative who has had it. It’s estimated that around 1 in 3 people who develop colorectal cancer have family members who have also had it .
#4 Inherited syndrome
There are certain gene mutations that can increase a person’s risk of developing colon cancer, the most common of these include familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome - also referred to as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
#5 Type 2 diabetes
People living with type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer. An early study established the link between type 2 diabetes and colon cancer indicating that people with type 2 diabetes had a 38% higher risk of developing colon cancer than those without diabetes .
#6 Inflammatory bowel disease
Your risk of colorectal cancer increases if you have a history of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. If you have IBD, your doctor may recommend regular colorectal cancer screening and potentially at a younger age.
Although the above risk factors can’t be controlled, regular screening can help find cancer in its early stages when it’s easier to treat. Talk to you about the most suitable screening tests for you. The most recent statistics from the ACS show that the five-year survival rate for people with localized colon cancer (cancer that hasn’t spread outside of the colon) is around 91% . If you have any concerns, make sure to have a conversation with your healthcare provider - even if you are a younger adult.
You can learn about the lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk of developing colon cancer here.
This Colon Cancer Awareness Month, LetsGetChecked is honored to team up with two incredible advocates to highlight the importance of early and regular screening: Colorectal Cancer Alliance and actress Zoe Saldana, best known for her roles in the films Avatar, Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Avengers.
We will be donating $1 Million worth of our at-home Colon Cancer Screening Tests as well as $100,000 to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance to help with their crucial work towards helping underserved communities get the treatment they may need.
Zoe Saldana is passionate about how early detection can help save lives and we are thankful that she is helping raise awareness surrounding the importance of regular screening. You can find out more through Zoe’s video on our Instagram here.
- National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable. Achieving 80% Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates In Every Community. Online: Nccrt.org
- National Cancer Institute. Why Is Colorectal Cancer Rising Rapidly among Young Adults? Online: Cancer.gov
- American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Rates Higher in African Americans, Rising in Younger People. Online: Cancer.org
- American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors. Online: Cancer.org
- Diabetes.co.uk. Diabetes and colon cancer link established. Online: Diabetes.co.uk
- American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Survival Rates. Online: Cancer.org