Colorectal Cancer Screening: A Life-saving TestLast updated: Mar 03, 2014
"By age 50, people are at average risk and should be screened for colorectal cancer," says Summit Medical Group gastroenterologist John Dalena, MD. Dr. Dalena adds, “People with inflammatory bowel disease and other risk factors for colon and rectal cancer should be screened at an earlier age.”
Ask your physician about your risk for colorectal cancer,
what test might be right for you,
and how often you should be screened.
Risk factors that can increase your odds for colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer include:*
More than 90% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed in people age 50 years and older
- Personal history of colorectal polyps
Having many as well as large polyps increases colorectal cancer risk
- Personal history of colorectal cancer
Previous colon cancer increases the odds it will recur in the colon and rectum
- Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease
These conditions alter the cells in the lining of the colon, sometimes leading to cancer
- Family history of colorectal cancer
Although most colorectal cancers occur in people with no family history of the disease, research shows that 1 in 5 people with colorectal cancer have a family member who has or has had the disease
- Inherited familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
Approximately 1% of colorectal cancers are found in people with a mutation in the adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) gene
- Inherited nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
Also known as Lynch syndrome, HNPCC accounts for 3% to 4% of all colorectal cancers
- Juvenile polyposis syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome
Although the are rare and inherited, these syndromes increase risk of adenomatous polyps and colorectal cancer
- Being African American or of Easter European (Ashkenazi) Jewish descent
Genetic mutations increase the risk of colorectal cancer in people with these racial/ethnic backgrounds
- Eating a diet high in saturated fat that includes a large percentage of red and processed meats as well as meats
cooked at very high temperatures through frying, broiling, and grilling
Some research shows that chemicals in red and processed meats and chemical changes in meats cooked at very high temperatures increase the risk of colorectal cancer
Studies show an increased risk of colorectal cancer in people who are obese
- Having type 2 (noninsulin-dependent) diabetes
Although researchers are unsure about the exact cause, the increased incidence of colorectal cancer in people with type 2 diabetes might be associated with excess weight. Some people with type 2 diabetes and colorectal cancer also have a less favorable prognosis after they are diagnosed with colorectal cancer. If you have type 2 diabetes, ask your gastroenterologist how often you should be screened for colorectal cancer
- Being physically inactive
The relationship between lack of physical activity and colorectal cancer is unknown, but researchers speculate that physical activity helps prevent obesity, a risk factor for colorectal cancer. In addition, cellular changes and other body processes that benefit from physical activity might help prevent colorectal cancer in some people
The risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer is greater in long-term smokers, especially men, compared with people who do not smoke
- Drinking too much alcohol (more than 2 drinks per day for men and more than 1 drink per day for women)
Researchers believe that low folic acid levels in heavy drinkers might contribute to higher colorectal cancer rates
- Personal history of treatment for cancer of any kind
Studies show that people who have been treated for certain cancers have higher rates of colorectal cancer. In particular, radiation treatment might increase a person's risk of developing colorectal cancer
Risk for colon cancer does not guarantee you will get the disease.
"Some people who get colorectal cancer have no known risk for it," says Dr. Dalena. "Screening allows doctors to identify and remove abnormalities that can lead to cancer. It also allows us to identify cancer in its early stages when it has the best possibitiy of responding to treatment."
Recommendations for colorectal cancer screening include:1
- Adults aged 50 to 75 years using
- Fecal occult blood testing
- Flexible sigmoidoscopy
Although routine colorectal cancer screening is not recommended for adults 76 to 85 years of age, certain patients might need it depending on their risk. Screening for colorectal cancer is not recommended for people age 85 years and older.1
The USPSTF does not support the benefits and risks of computed tomographic (CT) colonography and fecal DNA testing for colorectal cancer screening.1
For more information or to schedule colorectal exams and screening
with a Summit Medical Group gastroenterologist near you,
please visit the Summit Medical Group Gastroenterology page.
Summit Medical Group Colorectal Surgery
treats a variety of illnesses and injuries
of the colon, rectum, and anus.
Our highly qualified surgeons
have expertise in open as well as laparoscopic colorectal surgery.
1. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. United States Preventive Services Task Force screening for colorectal cancer recommendation statement. Accessed March 1, 2014.