During National Colon Cancer Awareness Month, held each year in March, the Genetic Center at Akron Children’s Hospital encourages adults to learn more about their risk for this cancer. Colon cancer prevention involves finding and removing precancerous polyps before they have the chance to develop into cancer.
Starting at age 50, the American Cancer Society recommends that all men and women at average risk participate in one of the following screening options:
- A colonoscopy every 10 years (gold standard)
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years
- Double–contrast barium enema every 5 years
- CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years
Diet and lifestyle also play an important role in prevention. Studies have linked diets high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains – and low in red and processed meats – to a lower risk of colon cancer.
Research has also shown that people who are overweight or obese have a greater risk of developing colon cancer.
As much as 5 to 7 percent of colon cancer is hereditary, or passed down through a person’s family. Your risk for this hereditary link increases if you have:
- Colon cancer before the age of 50
- Multiple colon cancers or more than one Lynch Syndrome-associated cancer, such as colon, breast, small bowel, endometrial, ureter, renal, ovarian or stomach
- 2 or more close relatives with a Lynch Syndrome associated cancer
- 3 or more close relatives with colon cancer
- A relative who has tested positive for a gene mutation that is known to increase colorectal cancer risk
- A relative with more than 10 colorectal polyps
Individuals with these risk factors should consult their doctor or the Genetic Center about increased screening guidelines and testing options.