In March, we recognize Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. In the United
States, colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related
deaths in both men and women, and it's the second most common cause
of cancer deaths when numbers for men and women are combined. It's
expected to cause about 52,550 deaths during 2023.
Overall, the lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in
23 for men and 1 in 26 for women. With such high risk of developing this
type of cancer, it is important to know the warning signs, risk factors,
and how you can be vigilant against this cancer.
What are the risk factors that you can change?
- Being overweight or obese: Being overweight raises the risk of colon and
rectal cancer in people, but the link seems to be stronger in men. Getting
to and staying at a healthy weight may help lower your risk.
- Not being physically active: Regular moderate to vigorous physical activity
can help lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Certain types of diets: A diet that's high in red meats (such as beef,
pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meats (like hot dogs and some luncheon
meats) raises your colorectal cancer risk.
- Smoking: People who have smoked tobacco for a long time are more likely
than people who don't smoke to develop and die from colorectal cancer.
Smoking is a well-known cause of lung cancer, but it's linked to a
lot of other cancers, too.
- Alcohol use: Colorectal cancer has been linked to moderate to heavy alcohol
use. Even light-to-moderate alcohol intake has been associated with some
risk. It is best not to drink alcohol. If people do drink alcohol, they
should have no more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for
women. This could have many health benefits, including a lower risk of
many kinds of cancer.
What are the risk factors that you cannot change?
- Being Older: Your risk of colorectal cancer goes up as you age. Younger
adults can get it, but it's much more common after age 50. Colorectal
cancer is rising among people who are younger than age 50 and the reason
for this remains unclear.
- A personal history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
- A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
- A family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
- Having an inherited syndrome: About 5% of people who develop colorectal
cancer have inherited gene changes (mutations) that cause family cancer
syndromes and can lead to them getting the disease.
- Your racial and ethnic background: American Indian/Alaska Native people
have the highest rates of colorectal cancer in the US, followed by African
American men and women.
- Having type 2 diabetes: People with type 2 (usually non-insulin dependent)
diabetes have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
What are the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer?
Colorectal cancer might not cause symptoms right away, but if it does,
it may cause one or more of these symptoms:
- A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing
of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
- A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that's not relieved
by having one
- Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
- Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
- Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
- Weakness and fatigue
- Unintended weight loss
To learn more about the cancer services provided at CVMC, visit CatawbaValleyHealth.org/Cancer.
*All information was provided by the American Cancer Society