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Who's at Risk for Colon Cancer?

About 90% of colon cancer cases are detected in people who are 50 or older, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While getting older is a major risk factor, other issues may also be endangering your digestive health.

At Digestive Disorders Associates, we recommend you start colon cancer screening at age 45 or 50 and get a regular colonoscopy every 10 years after that. You may need more frequent screenings if you have a major risk factor for the disease.

Here’s a list of some additional risk factors for colon cancer. Some are controllable while others, of course, are not.

Risk factor #1: You have inflammatory bowel disease

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) creates inflammation and pain throughout your digestive tract. The two major forms are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

Research shows that people with IBD are at increased risk of cancer due to inflammation and immunosuppressive therapies used to ease your symptoms. If you have IBD, we help you manage symptoms and get the colon cancer screenings you need early on to prevent serious complications.

Risk factor #2: You have a personal or family history of colon cancer

If you’ve had colon polyps (adenomatous polyps or adenomas), your risk of developing colon cancer is greatly increased. If you had many, they were large, or were irregular (showed dysplasia), they’re particularly concerning.

If you had colorectal cancer, even if it was completely removed, you’re at greater risk of developing it in other areas of the colon and rectum. Colon cancer also has a genetic link, so if a close family member had the disease, your risk increases too.

Risk factor #3: You have certain lifestyle habits

A healthy lifestyle is great protection against colorectal cancer. And, it’s never too late to start supporting your body with physical activity, a nutritious diet, and other healthy habits.

A lifestyle that involves the following raises your risk of developing colon cancer:

If you have these lifestyle risk factors, our gastroenterologists at Digestive Disorders Associates can support you as you make changes to improve your colon health.

How to reduce these risk factors

All people, regardless of risk factors, should get screened for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50, at the latest. If you do have a genetic or personal history of colon cancer or have had polyps in the past, these screenings may begin early and occur more frequently.

A colonoscopy is the primary colon cancer screening tool. This screening gives our doctors a look inside your colon to identify precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer.

Other ways to reduce your risk of colon cancer include changing your diet to include more fiber from foods like vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. As a bonus, these additions can also reduce your risk of coronary artery disease and diabetes.

Increasing your physical activity level, limiting alcohol consumption, and avoiding tobacco are other ways to reduce your risk of colon cancer. 

At Digestive Disorder Associates, we offer colonoscopies, the gold standard when it comes to detecting polyps or colon cancer, to people living in and around Annapolis, Maryland. If you’re due for a colonoscopy or have an increased risk, call today or use the online tool to schedule.

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