Like many diseases, colon cancer is associated with several risk factors over which you have no control. For example, you cannot help it if you are older than 60 or have a family history of colon cancer. Being of African American or Eastern European descent can also increase your odds. Other factors to consider when evaluating your risk of colon cancer include having colorectal polyps, inflammatory bowel disease or a personal history of breast cancer.
The fact that there are so many factors which are unavoidable, however, mean it is especially important for us to pay attention to the factors we can control.
As is the case with many cancers, smoking is one risk factor that is entirely preventable. Drinking large quantities of alcohol can also increase your chances of developing colon cancer, as can eating a lot of red or processed meats.
A healthy lifestyle can improve your odds of avoiding colon cancer – and regular screenings can help you catch it early if it still develops. Finding it in the early stages is your best bet if you do develop colon cancer. In fact, the five-year survival rate if found early is 90%.
The five stages of colon cancer are:
- Stage 0: Very early cancer on the innermost layer of the intestine
- Stage 1: Cancer is in the inner layers of the colon
- Stage 2: Cancer has spread through the muscle wall of the colon
- Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes
- Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other organs outside the colon
The five-year survival rate drops dramatically if cancer is not detected until the later stages, so if your lifestyle includes too many colon cancer risk factors make sure you are receiving regular screenings.