While certain things such as age, gender and genetics are uncontrollable risk factors for the disease, there are other factors that are well within your control. Poor diet — particularly the excessive consumption of red and processed meat — cigarette smoking, alcohol abuse, obesity and physical inactivity are closely linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. These environmental factors are postulated to lead to an increase in DNA damage in the colonic cells that causes cancer formation.
Though 90% of cases are diagnosed in people aged 50 years or older, one in 10 cases of colorectal cancer occurs in those below the age of 50. In those who develop colorectal cancer before the age of 50, genetic factors rather than environmental factors are likely to play a bigger role. It is believed that inherited genetic mutations give rise to the earlier development of the cancer. Some people may beneit from starting colon cancer screening or genetic testing at a younger age. Those at higher risk include people:
Colon cancer can affect patients as young as 17 years old, even those who have no family history. It is extremely important to remember this: if you experience any abdominal symptoms that persist for more than two weeks, regardless of your age group, you should seek medical attention. If you are aged 50 years or older, and have no abdominal symptoms, you should still go for screening, as early detection and removal of polyps may be the best chance of preventing colorectal cancer.
Unfortunately, in the early stages, this cancer causes few to no symptoms; any symptom may seem innocent or can be easily overlooked. Some signs of colon cancer include a change in bowel movement patterns, blood or mucus in stools, unexplained and persistent abdominal pain or distension/bloating, and unexplained loss of weight and appetite. The danger is that, by the time a patient with colorectal cancer presents with symptoms, two-thirds of them would have entered the more advanced stages already. Regular screening is therefore important to detect colon cancer at its early stages. Screening with colonoscopy should start at 50 years old. For those with a family history, screening should start 10 years before the age of the youngest diagnosed individual in the family
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