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Every year, 140,000 men and women are told they have colorectal cancer and a further 40,000 of those people die from it.
These numbers make colorectal cancer one of the deadliest cancers.
March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month so we want the members of our community to not only be aware of their personal risk, but to make changes to decrease their chances of developing this disease. Keep reading to learn more about colorectal cancer risk factors.
- Smoking. It’s no surprise that colorectal cancer can be caused by smoking, especially considering how smoking can leave carcinogenic tobacco byproducts in your body’s tissues. It also increases your risk for a whole other host of cancers including lung, throat, breast and others. Stay away from e-cigarettes, or “vaping,” and smoking hookah as well. They’re also incredibly harmful. Visit this page to find resources on how you can quit smoking.
- Red & Processed Meats. Having a diet with lots of red meats, like pork, beef and lamb, can significantly increase your risk of colorectal cancer. Eating meats that are overly processed, like hot dogs and chorizo, has also been shown to have adverse effects. Try to stick with lean, white meats, like chicken and fish, and save the hotdogs for a ballpark game.
- Physical Inactivity and Obesity. Those who are significantly overweight or obese for most of their lives have an increased risk, especially if you have a large waistline. Being obese and having minimum physical activity seems to affect men more than women in terms of risk, but it can raise your chances no matter your gender.
- Frying Your Foods. Just as eating too many red meats can increase your risk, so can frying, grilling and broiling your foods, especially meats. When you cook your foods at very high temperatures, certain chemicals are produced and seep into your food. It’s not entirely clear how much this increases your chances of developing colorectal cancer, but there is a correlation.
- Family History & Inherited Mutations. Most people diagnosed with colorectal cancer won’t have any family history, but as many as 1 in 5 individuals diagnosed with this disease will. It’s important to learn more about your familial risk – any direct relation, like a mother, father, sister or brother, should be a reason for concern, especially if they’re diagnosed before they’re 45 years old. In some cases, around 5 – 10% of all colorectal cancers, the individual has an inherited gene mutation that causes the cancer. The most common of these mutations are Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and Lynch Syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer, or HNPCC). These mutations tend to cause cancers early in life so it’s important to discuss any concerns you have with your physician, no matter your age.
- Racial & Ethnic Background. Blacks have the highest incidence and mortality rates of colorectal cancer than any other race. It isn’t completely understood why yet, but experts believe there may be a connection with education and early testing and prevention accessibility. Ashkenazi Jews, specifically those of Eastern-European Jewish descent, also have a high incidence rate of colorectal cancer.
It’s important to remember that these are only risk factors and many individuals have one or more of these and never develop colorectal cancer. Reducing your risk of this disease is beneficial to your total health and well-being, not just in preventing colorectal cancer.
Want to learn more about personal risk and prevention? Visit this link.
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