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Understanding risks for colon cancer

The risk of colorectal cancer increases as you age. But finding and removing benign colorectal polyps in their early stages is key to prevention. Colorectal cancer is highly preventable because most of these cancers develop slowly, in stages, starting in a benign colon polyp.  

Although there are reports that some people are getting colon cancer at even younger ages, the general guideline is to start screening at age 50 and perhaps sooner, if you carry some added risk factors. Risk factors for developing colorectal cancer may include: 

  • personal history of colon polyps or colon cancer
  • strong family history of colorectal cancer
  • personal history of inflammatory bowel disease affecting the colon (ulcerative colitis or Crohn's colitis)
  • family history of genetic colon cancer syndromes (for example Lynch syndrome) or polyposis syndromes

Also using tobacco, being overweight, eating a diet high in fat (red meats) and low in fiber as well as not getting enough exercise can increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer.

To promote colon health eat a diet low in fat and high in fiber. Also include 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day along with whole grains. Consider talking with your doctor about the benefits of taking aspirin daily. Studies show a daily aspirin can reduce the risk of colorectal polyps and cancer.  

Making healthy choices, especially at a young age, can make a big difference in your overall health and risk of developing colorectal cancer.


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