Are You At Risk?
Research has shown people with certain risk factors have a higher chance of developing colon cancer under age 50. If one or more of these risk factors applies to you, don’t put off talking to your doctor and take charge of your health.
If you’re experiencing pain, bleeding or other symptoms, talk to your doctor right away.
About 10% of the population has a first degree relative with colon cancer.
First and second degree relatives (children, siblings, grandchildren, nieces, nephews) of a person with a history of colon cancer are more likely to develop this disease themselves, especially if the relative had the cancer at a young age. If many close relatives have a history of colon cancer, the risk is even greater. Because of this, U.S. Preventative Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends screening starting at age 40 for these high-risk individuals or 10 years earlier than the youngest age of colon cancer diagnosis for any affected relative.
To help you determine and track your family health history, please use our Family Health Tree. Print it, fill it out and take with you to discuss with your healthcare provider – it’s a clear way to spell out your potential risk.
In fact, we want to make it as easy as possible for you to keep track of whatever symptoms you may be having, so we created a Colon Cancer Symptoms Diary. Just download it, fill out and take it with your to your doctor. There’s no easier way to track what’s going on with your body!
Changes in certain genes increase your risk of colon cancer.
Hereditary nonployposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome) is the most common type of inherited colon cancer, accounting for about 2% of all colon cancer cases. It is caused by changes in a HNPCC gene. If not closely monitored, most individuals with this altered gene develop colon cancer, with the average age at diagnosis being only 42-45, and a jarring 35-40% being diagnosed before age 40. Screening is recommended to begin between 20-25 years old or five years younger than the earliest age of diagnosis in the family.
Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) is a rare, inherited condition in which hundreds of polyps form in the colon and rectum. It is caused by a change in a specific gene called APC. Unless FAP is treated, it usually leads to colon cancer by age 40. Screening is recommended to begin at age 10-12 or 10 years before the earliest colon cancer diagnosis in the family. FAP accounts for less than 1% of all colon cancer cases.
Family members of people who have HNPCC or FAP can have genetic testing to check for specific genetic changes. For those who have changes in their genes, health care providers may suggest ways to try to reduce the risk of colon cancer or to improve the detection of this disease. For adults with FAP, the doctor may recommend an operation to remove all or part of the colon and rectum.
A person who has had a condition that causes inflammation of the colon (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) for many years is at increased risk of developing colon cancer. Please be sure your doctor is aware of this condition and you are screened accordingly.
Other factors contributing to these young diagnoses have not been definitely identified, but we do know that they’ve been occurring alongside an increased prevalence of obesity and diabetes – two known colon cancer risk factors. We also know obesity and diabetes have been increasing among young Americans. We look forward to seeing more data on other contributing factors in the future.