Colorectal cancer is ranked as the third most commonly diagnosed cancer among the United States and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

In 2016, there have been 95,270 new cases of colon cancer in the United States alone and the ACS predicts that in 2016 there will be 49,190 deaths due to colorectal cancer. For men, there is 4.7% chance of developing colorectal cancer in their life time and 4.4% in women. Although the death rate from colorectal cancer is dropping, it is important that you educate yourself on the symptoms and understand who is most commonly affected.

What are the Symptoms of Colon Cancer?

The ACS recommends that you address any of these symptoms with your primary doctor immediately.

  • Bleeding from the rectum
  • Blood in the stool or in the toilet after having a bowl movement
  • A change in shape of the stool (e.g. more narrow than usual)
  • Cramping or discomfort in the lower abdomen
  • An urge to have a bowel movement when the bowel is empty
  • Constipation or diarrhea that lasts for more a than a few days
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unintentional weight loss

Who is at risk?

Risk level is determined by age, sex, race, and ethnicity.

  • Age: The older you are, the more likely you are to be diagnosed with colorectal cancer. Ninety percent of new cases occur in people over the age of 50. While the median age of diagnoses is 69 in men and 73 in women as well, men are having a 30-40 percent higher mortality rate in incidents of colorectal cancer.
  • Sex: There are gender-related differences in hormones and risk, estrogen has been found to work as a protective effect against colorectal cancer. As well, several studies have found that women have a history of developing colorectal cancer at an older age than men.
  • Race: Rate of colon cancer is highest in African- Americans and lowest in Asian/Pacific-Islander men and women.
  • Ethnicity: One of the most at risk ethnicities for colorectal cancer is Ashkenazi Jews, Jews of Eastern European descent. This increased risk is due to several gene mutations found within the group, one of the most common is 1307K APC mutation, which is present in about 6% of American Jews.

What about My Family History?

If you have family members that have suffered from colon cancer, you may be at a higher risk, and should take the necessary steps to get screened regularly. As well, make sure to visit to learn more about how you can prevent colorectal cancer. The UVM Medical center also provides genetic testing, where you can find educational resources and necessary counseling.

To learn more about Colon Cancer and screenings, please visit the UVM Medical Center website.

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