Friday, April 23, 2021

Risk Factors and Common Symptoms of Colon Cancer

According to, the average age of colon cancer diagnosis in men is 68 years old, while 72 for women. While colon cancer is more common in older adults aged 50 and over, it can occur at any age.

Colon cancer is highly treatable if caught early enough. The symptoms of colon cancer don’t often appear until cancer has advanced. Therefore, it’s essential to regularly get screened for colon cancer to avoid reaching a stage when symptoms become evident and the cancer has progressed. Here are the risk factors to be aware of and the signs to look out for:

Risk Factors

While women and men are at equal risk for colon cancer, and it can happen at any age, there are personal, hereditary, and medical factors that may trigger the formation of cancerous cells or tumors.

Personal Risks

Age – The risk of colon cancer does increase with age. If you are 45 years or older, consider getting screened for colon cancer.

Weight – Obesity or being overweight increases your risk for colon cancer. Being an unhealthy weight means higher fat and insulin levels that may cause inflammation, contributing to cancer cell development.

Diet – High consumption of red meat, processed meat, and alcohol makes you at high-risk for colon cancer. The toxic preservatives in certain foods are controversial as contributors to cancer. To help prevent colon cancer, eat diets that are high in fresh fruits, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. 

Personal medical history – Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis affects your colon, increasing your colon cancer risk. People with IBD typically get screened for colon cancer 8-10 years after they are first diagnosed.

Family Medical History

First-degree and close relatives – First-degree relatives are family members who share about 50% of your genes. Your parents, siblings, and children are your first-degree relatives. Close relatives that would be listed in a complete medical record would include your grandparents, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, and first cousins. About 20% of colon cancer patients have close relatives with colon cancer. Therefore, if any of your first-degree or close relatives have colon cancer, you have a higher risk for colon cancer.

Inherited conditions - The following are rare conditions that are inherited from family members that put you at a higher risk of colon cancer:

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
    • Gardner syndrome
    • Attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP)
  • Lynch syndrome
    • Muir-Torre syndrome
    • Turcot syndrome
  • Juvenile polyposis syndrome (JPS)
  • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)
  • MYH-associated polyposis (MAP


The following are general symptoms caused by many medical conditions, including colon cancer. If you are experiencing any of these, it does not automatically mean you have colon cancer. Any of these signs or a combination of symptoms are indicators that it’s time to see your doctor for screening:

  • Unexplained change in bowel habits, including persistent constipation or diarrhea
  • Constant fatigue
  • Iron-deficiency or anemia
  • Bloody stool. Unusually bright red or dark excrement may indicate blood
  • Unusually shaped stool. Stool that may be thinner than usual
  • Chronic abdomen discomfort, including cramps, bloating, and gas pains
  • Unexplained weight loss

To learn more about the different colon cancer screenings performed by gastroenterologists, contact Gastro-MD with two convenient locations, serving Orlando and Tampa. We strive to build a community of cutting-edge clinical gastroenterology practices and set the standards in digestive health care.

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