Cancer Covered Blog

First in a series: Contributing Factors – Colorectal Cancer

Over the last fifteen years, the number of new cases of colorectal cancer has gone down by 2 to 3 percent per year. There are a number of factors that still result in over 140,000 new cases of colorectal cancer being diagnosed each year.  The following is an overview of these factors.

The incidence of colon cancer appears to increase with age although more recently,  a growing number of new cases have been diagnosed between the ages of 40 to 44.

The risk for colon cancer is higher in men and in patients of African-American descent.

There are genetic conditions associated with a very high risk of colon cancer, often at a young age, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and its variants; MUTYH-associated polyposis and Lynch syndrome.

Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) carries an increased risk of colorectal cancer; particularly if there are ongoing inflammatory changes in the bowel wall over an extended period of time.

Evidence exists that adult survivors of childhood cancer who received abdominal radiation are at a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer.

Acromegaly, a condition which is caused by excess growth hormone in  the body, carries an increased risk as well.

Kidney transplant patients appear to have a significantly increased risk of colon cancer.

Patients with prostate cancer who had been on androgen-blocking therapy have increased colorectal cancer risk which appears to increase with longer duration of the therapy.

Diabetes mellitus results in a higher risk of colorectal cancer; even in studies which controlled for smoking, obesity and physical activity.

Obesity itself is associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer – more in men than in women – and the risk appears to increase the higher the body mass index(BMI).

There appears to be a slightly increased risk of cancer of the right side of the colon in patients who had undergone a cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder).

The risk of colorectal cancer increases with alcohol consumption in a number of studies, even when evaluating  light drinkers.

Cigarette smoking, which is a risk factor for a number of cancers – most notably cancer of the lung, is also associated with an increased risk of colorectal  cancer.

Long-term consumption of  red and processed meats appears to increase the risk of colorectal cancer, particularly in the left side of colon and in the rectum.

This concludes my brief review. There are many elements that contribute to a colorectal cancer diagnosis.  There are also a number of preventive measures which I will look at in my next blog entry.

Michael Volk, MD

Michael has a candid approach and is known to bring new perspective to every challenge.

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