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What Causes Colon Cancer?

What Causes Colon Cancer

Colon cancer, a common yet complex disease, is characterized by the abnormal growth of cells in the colon or rectum, the final parts of your digestive tract. You may be wondering what causes colon cancer, while the exact cause of most colon cancers is not fully understood, it occurs when cells grow uncontrollably, forming a tumor.

Over time, these abnormal cells can invade and destroy normal body tissue, and in advanced stages, they may spread to other parts of the body, a condition known as metastatic cancer.

Causes of Colorectal Cancer

Although the specific causes of most colon cancers are not fully understood, it is believed that a combination of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors plays a significant role in their development. Here are a few factors that can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer:

1. High-fat and Red Meat Consumption

Regular intake of diets high in fats, especially saturated fats and red meats (beef, lamb, pork), is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Cooking methods like frying or grilling at high temperatures can also contribute to this risk.

2. Low Fiber Intake

A diet low in fiber can negatively impact your colon health. Fiber, found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, not only helps with digestive health but may also protect against colorectal cancer.

3. Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Diseases

Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease are conditions that involve long-term inflammation of the colon, which can lead to cell changes in the colon lining, increasing your risk of colorectal cancer. The longer the duration of the disease, the higher your risk of developing abnormal cells.

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

Here is a breakdown of the five main risk factors for colorectal cancer:

1. Genetic Syndromes

Certain inherited genetic disorders, like Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome, significantly increase colorectal cancer risk.

2. Family History

Having a first-degree relative, like a parent or sibling, with colorectal cancer also raises your risk of developing the disease.

3. Older Age

The risk of colon cancer increases with age, particularly after 40. Most cases are diagnosed in individuals over the age of 50.

4. Lifestyle Choices

A sedentary lifestyle and being overweight are significant risk factors. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can also increase your chances of developing colon cancer.

5. Environmental Factors

Although not as common as dietary and lifestyle factors, long-term exposure to certain chemicals or environmental pollutants may increase your risk.

Colon Cancer Prevention

Preventing colon cancer involves adopting healthy lifestyle choices and undergoing regular screenings. Some ways to reduce your risk include:

  • Eating a diet low in fat and red meat and high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables
  • Engaging in regular physical activity to help you maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoiding smoking and heavy alcohol use
  • Getting regular screening colonoscopies

Colonoscopy: The Gold Standard for Colon Cancer Screening

When it comes to detecting colon cancer early, a colonoscopy is your best defense. A colonoscopy gives your doctor a clear view of the entire colon and rectum, allowing them to spot any irregularities or changes that other tests might miss.

A colonoscopy is more than just a diagnostic tool. During a colonoscopy, your doctor can remove precancerous polyps in the colon, a proactive step in cancer prevention.

Screening for colon cancer typically begins at age 45. However, if you have risk factors like a family history of the disease, a genetic predisposition, or chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, your doctor might recommend starting earlier.

Take a Proactive Approach to Preventing Colon Cancer

If you’re approaching the recommended age for screening or if you have risk factors for colon cancer, it’s time to schedule a colonoscopy. It’s a decision that could save your life.

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