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What are the risk factors for colon cancer?

Like most cancers, the most important risk factors for colon cancer are those we can't change:† age and a family history of colon polyps, or colon or rectal cancer.† Other unchangeable risk factor include:

  • blood type A
  • a history of precancerous polyps or previous colon cancer and
  • a history of chronic inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease

Other risk factors are changeable and there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of colon cancer.† The most important step†is to have regular screening tests.† Other steps include:

  • drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water per day
  • Eating 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables
  • Increase your dietary fiber
  • Get regular aerobic exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight and
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Studies have also shown that in women, birth control pill usage and hormone replacement therapy can reduce colon cancer risk.

Symptoms that should send you to the doctor for evaluation include:

  • a decreased appetite or unexplained weight loss
  • fatigue or unexplained anemia
  • unusual abdominal pain or cramps
  • a change in bowel habits (such as prolonged diarrhea or severe constipation) or
  • noticing any† blood in the stool or rectal bleeding.

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Created: 1/31/2001  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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