When it comes to colon cancer, the most important thing you can do to protect your health is to have regular screenings. And for one good reason: Over 75% of colorectal cancers occur in men and women without any known risk factors.

Some things, however, can increase your chances of developing these types of cancer, and learning to recognize them can help to protect your long-term health.

At South Shore Surgical, Dr. Ira Klonsky brings his experience as a colon surgeon to men and women in Valley Stream, New York. He recommends asking yourself these questions to help determine if you have a high risk of colon cancer.

How’s your family history?

Approximately 1 in 3 people with colorectal cancer have a close relative with the disease, which makes your family history one of your greatest risk factors. In fact, if you have a sibling, child, or parent with colorectal cancer, your chances of developing this disease are 2-3 times higher. And, when you have more than one relative with colorectal cancer — or one diagnosed before age 45 — your risks are even higher.

Other diseases in personal or family histories that increase your chances of colorectal cancer include:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
  • Cancers of the breast, ovaries, or endometrial tissue

Colorectal cancer is also more common in African Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent.

What do you like to eat?

If you need a reason to change your diet, eating the wrong foods could be increasing your chances of colon cancer —  especially if you’re overweight or obese.

Studies show that consuming large quantities of processed meat or red meat can put you at risk of colon cancer, especially when you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Having 2-4 alcoholic drinks each day over your lifetime also increases your risk of colorectal cancer by 23%, compared with those who have less than one drink each day.

When was the last time you exercised?

When it comes to lowering your cancer risks, it pays to manage your weight and stay physically active — and there’s evidence to prove it. Estimates from the World Cancer Research Fund suggest that approximately 20% of all cancers in the United States have direct links to physical inactivity, body fat, poor nutrition, and excess alcohol consumption.

By managing your weight, you can improve your immune system and better regulate hormones in your body — like estrogen and insulin — which stimulate cancer growth.

Have you had a colonoscopy lately?

Since there’s no way to prevent colorectal cancer, and symptoms may not occur until the condition progresses, the American Cancer Society recommends getting regular colon cancer screenings starting at age 45.

Colon cancer typically starts in the lining of your rectum or colon as a small growth, or polyp. It typically takes 10-15 years for an abnormal cell to grow from a polyp into colorectal cancer. Not all polyps turn into cancer, but having these growths can increase your chances of developing the disease, depending on the size, type, and number of polyps found during a colonoscopy.

Your doctor works with you to outline the best testing strategy based on your individual needs, especially when you have a history of polyps or other risk factors associated with colorectal cancer.

To learn more about colon cancer and whether you’re at risk, contact us at South Shore Surgical by calling our Valley Stream, New York, office at 516-200-1318 today, or you can request an appointment online. You can also send a message to Dr. Klonsky and the team here on our website.

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