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Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Risk

Posted Oct 31 2012 3:58pm

Posted by Barbara Armstrong Green
Welcome. If you have had the chance to read the “My Story” post about my sister Susan’s battle with colon cancer, you may know that Susan died of colon cancer when she was 59, after a four-year battle. How could someone so seemingly healthy and vibrant be growing a silent killer in her colon and not know it? 

Colorectal cancer, which may begin in either the colon or the rectum, is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States.  What makes this even more tragic is that colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers.  

If I only knew then what I know now, my sister Sue might still be alive.  As Sue’s cancer advanced and she realized that she would not beat this, Sue - ever the big sister - focused on how to turn her personal tragedy into an opportunity to save her two sisters from a similar fate.  She wanted to make sure that my sister Peggy and I (as well as other loved ones) would take steps to protect ourselves by getting screened.
We all want to have healthy lives and healthy families but how do we manage it? How do we make the daily choices that may protect us and our families from cancer? Fortunately, the National Cancer Institute has done our homework for us with a list of preventions and risks that we should all be aware of.  Some risk factors, such as smoking may be avoidable. Others, such as inheriting certain genes, may not. Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute.
 Below is a list of protective factors that decrease the risk of colorectal cancer:
  • Physical activity: Regular physical exercise
  • Aspirin: Taking aspirin every day for at least 5 years decreases the risk of colorectal cancer and the risk of death from colorectal cancer. But aspirin may increase the risk of bleeding in the stomach, intestines, or brain.
  • Hormone replacement therapy (HRT): Studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that includes both estrogen and progesterone lowers the risk of colon cancer in postmenopausal women. HRT with estrogen alone does not lower the risk. However, hormone use increases the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and blood clots.
  • Polyp  removal: Removing colorectal polyps that are larger than one centimeter (cm) may lower the risk of colorectal cancer. It is not known if removing smaller polyps lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.  The possible harms of polyp removal during colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy include a tear in the wall of the colon and bleeding.

Below is a list of risk factors that increase the risk of colorectal cancer:
  • Age: The risk of colorectal cancer increases after age 50.
  • Family history of colorectal cancer: Having a parent, brother, sister, or child with colorectal cancer doubles a person’s risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Personal history: Having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Inherited risk: The risk of colorectal cancer is increased when certain gene changes are inherited.
  • Alcohol: Drinking three or more alcoholic beverages per day increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Drinking alcohol is also linked to the risk of forming large colorectal benign tumors.
  • Cigarette smoking: Cigarette smoking is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and death from colorectal cancer.
  • Obesity: Obesity is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and death from colorectal cancer.
Please take a few moments to comment on this blog and return to the Susie's Cause web site to learn more about protecting yourself and your family from this devastating disease.

Source: National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health

The information presented on the Susan Cohan Colon Cancer web site is solely intended to provide you with information that will help educate you on the importance of diet, exercise and regular cancer screening in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Adopting these habits is an individual choice and one that should only be made after consultation with your health care professional. No information provided on this Web site or otherwise offered is intended to replace or in any way modify the advice of your health care professional.

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