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Colorectal Cancer: Heredity as a Risk Factor

| Date Posted: 3/9/2012 | Author: Chris Whitesell

Colon polyps/tumors

About colorectal cancer

The term colorectal cancer is used to describe cancer of the colon, colon cancer, or rectum, and rectal cancer.  According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer in both men and women.  For men, colorectal cancer falls behind skin cancer, prostate cancer, and lung cancer.  In women, skin cancer, breast cancer, and lung cancer are more prevalent.

Who’s at risk and how does family history play a major role?

There are a number of factors that have been attributed to increasing the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer, such as:

  • Being over 50
  • The presence of colorectal polyps
  • History of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • A sustained diet that is high in fat and low in calcium, folate, and fiber
  • Smoking cigarettes

Though most cases of colorectal cancer are thought to develop sporadically due to environmental exposures or cell mutations, family history, especially as it pertains to colon cancer, cannot be overlooked.  In fact, 5-10% of colon cancers are believed to be hereditary.  The most common genetic causes of colon cancer are hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome, and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). (Source: Cleveland Clinic – Hereditary Colon Cancer)

If your family has a history of colorectal cancer in multiple generations then hereditary risk factors should be a concern.  In addition, having a close relative that was diagnosed with colon or rectal cancer at or before the age of 50 may indicate a slightly higher probability of developing colorectal cancer.

Tip: Do your homework and make sure you have a strong grasp of your family history before you go see the doctor.

When to be screened for colorectal cancer?

Since colorectal cancer is most common after the age of 50, it is important to begin regular screenings around that age.  However, if you have family history of either colon cancer or rectal cancer, you may need to begin screenings at an earlier age.  The need is greater if a close family member was diagnosed at or before the age of 50.  In this case, it is recommended that you receive a colonoscopy when you are 10 years younger than the affected family member at the time of diagnosis. (Source: WebMD - Inherited Colorectal Cancer)

Call (910) 715-3500 to learn more about the colon cancer treatment options available in Pinehurst, NC.

The Cancer Center offers comprehensive cancer care to the Pinehurst, Sanford, Raeford, Laurinburg, Lumberton, Troy and Rockingham regions of North Carolina and beyond. 

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