Chances are you’ve heard of colon cancer, but did you know it’s the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States? Triple board-certified gastroenterologist John M. Rivas, MD, helps patients prevent and catch this deadly disease early with colon cancer screenings.
Dr. Rivas meets with you at the state-of-the-art Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, to assess your risk factors for colon cancer and recommend a customized colon cancer screening schedule. Read on to learn more about colon cancer and whether you’re at risk.
What are the risk factors for colon cancer?
Because colon cancer is treatable when caught early, understanding if you’re at risk helps you take preventive action to minimize your chances of getting the disease. If you have several of the following risk factors, consult Dr. Rivas about getting a colonoscopy or a stool test. This will help you spot any early signs of problems.
You can develop colon cancer at any age, but your risk increases significantly after age 45. Doctors diagnose almost all (95%) colon cancer cases in patients 45 or older, and the average age of diagnosis is 68.
Your diet is one of the most significant risk factors for developing colon cancer. Eating red and processed meats, especially when cooked at high temperatures (e.g., grilling, broiling, frying) increases your risk of colon cancer.
On the other hand, a diet based on fiber-rich plant foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes and beans helps lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Other lifestyle factors that increase your chance of developing colon cancer include:
- Leading a mostly sedentary lifestyle
- Smoking and using tobacco products
- Drinking alcohol
Having a family history of colon cancer increases your likelihood of developing colon cancer. Doctors aren’t sure if genes alone or a combination of inherited genes and other risk factors is the cause for increased risk, but Dr. Rivas may recommend earlier or more frequent screenings if you have a family history of the disease.
Researchers link certain types of inherited syndromes with higher rates of colon cancer. These include:
- Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) Syndrome
- Hereditary Non-Polyposis Colorectal Cancer (HNPCC) Syndrome
- Lynch Syndrome
- Turcot Syndrome
- Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome
In addition, your racial or ethnic makeup may mean you have a higher risk of developing this disease. For example, Black Americans have the highest incidence of colon cancer in the US, and Ashkenazi Jews also have an increased risk.
Having a history of certain digestive health disorders means you’re at higher risk for colon cancer. If you have a history of polyps found during a colonoscopy (even if they were benign), a history of other colorectal cancers, or any other inflammatory bowel disease (e.g., Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, IBD), you’re at higher risk.
Your overall health plays a role in your risk level for colon cancer. Some overall health factors that increase your risk include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having other cancers
- Having Type 2 diabetes
- Having had radiation therapy
What should I do if I have one or more risk factors?
If you have one or more risk factors for colon cancer, it’s important to see Dr. Rivas. Colon cancer is a slow-growing cancer, so with early detection, Dr. Rivas can remove polyps before they become cancerous or before the cancer spreads.
The American Cancer Society recommends everyone get screened for colon cancer beginning at age 45. The frequency of subsequent screenings depends on the results and your other risk factors.
If you have any risk factors for colon cancer or want to schedule a baseline screening, call the Rivas Digestive Center in Hollywood, Florida, at 954-228-5882 or book an appointment online now.