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Your Body: What Doctors Know: Who's most at risk for colorectal cancer?
Source: Kiplinger

Source: Pacific Prime Insurance

Colorectal cancer includes cancer of the bowels, colon, rectum and intestines. Colorectal cancer is often diagnosed after the patient shows a number of symptoms including blood in the stools, constipation, rapid weight loss and anemia. The success of treatment of the various types of colorectal cancer depends on how early diagnosis is made, as well as the overall health of the patient.

While cases of colorectal cancer can be found around the world, the disease is especially prominent in more developed countries, and is considered a so-called "disease of affluence."

Medical research is still unable to tell us precisely what causes cancer, but colorectal cancer is strongly associated with obesity, sedentary lifestyles and a high intake of red meat. In fact, there appears to be only a very minor genetic predilection for getting colorectal cancer.


There's a large body of recent research which indicates that all human illness stems from various types of inflammation. The idea is that modern diets and sedentary lifestyles cause inflammation in the gut and upset the balance of bacteria in the gut. The theory posits that human evolution cannot occur quickly enough to adapt to the radical changes in diet which occurred in recent centuries.

The fact that colorectal cancer occurs most often in developed countries, or among those who've adopted a "modern" diet, would seem to support this claim.

Patients who've been diagnosed with Crohn's disease, colitis and other types of bowel or intestinal inflammation are at high risk for various forms of colorectal cancer. Eighteen percent of Crohn's disease patients get colorectal cancer within 30 years of diagnosis.

Those who suffer from various inflamed bowel conditions are strongly advised to monitor symptoms closely, and to make lifestyle choices to improve their overall health.


Interestingly from a diagnostic point of view, there seems to be very little genetic predisposition toward colon cancer. According to research published in esteemed medical journal, "Lancet" in 2010, those patients with two or more close relatives are twice as likely as a random member of the population to suffer from colorectal cancer, however, this subset accounts for only about one-fifth of all cases.

Researchers distinguish between "epigenetic" and "genetic" alterations in DNA which could lead to the presence of tumors; however for the layman, it should be understood that only a handful of gene alterations (whether mutational or not) can lead to the emergence of malignant growths.


Patients in a high-risk group for colorectal cancers and who exhibit some of the symptoms listed in the top section are strongly advised to have a regular colonoscopy. If a tumor is discovered, a biopsy should be performed as soon as possible in the interest of early detection and treatment. A computed tomography "CT Scan" will be made to determine the extent of the cancerous growths.

Once a diagnosis has been made, treatment options will be discussed. There are several options.


The type of treatment used against colorectal cancer will depend on how advanced the cancer is and the overall health of the patient. Physicians distinguish between "curative" treatment, intended to restore the patient to health, and "palliative" treatment, which aims to ease the pain of terminal patients.

Curative care will usually include surgery, and may also involve radiation and chemotherapy. Palliative treatments may include surgical procedures to ease the impact on affected intestinal tissue, and may involve stents designed to bypass cancerous tissue.

Survival rates mostly depend on the stage of advancement of the cancer. Early stage detection can result in a nearly 100 percent survival rate after five years; this drops to less than five percent in cases of late stage detection.


A healthy balanced diet and an active lifestyle are the best preventative measures against colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer has been associated with excessive red meat consumption, smoking and alcohol abuse. Some evidence points to high levels of fruit and vegetable consumption being correlated with a lack of colorectal cancer diagnoses.

Over one million people are diagnosed with colorectal cancer every year ; it claimed the lives of Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II and Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees. The trend for global colorectal cancer diagnoses appears to be on an upward swing, linked to an increase in sedentary lifestyles and obesity rates.


Don't gamble with your intestinal health. Reducing the risk of colorectal cancer is yet another incentive to be sure to eat a balanced diet and stay fit. Colorectal cancer is the fourth most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in the world, and but is perhaps the most preventable due to its limited genetic component and association with unhealthy lifestyle choices. In other words, it's mostly up to YOU to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer. Make the right choices!

SOURCE: Pacific Prime Insurance. For more information, visit

(WhatDoctorsKnow is a magazine devoted to up-to-the minute information on health issues from physicians, major hospitals and clinics, universities and health care agencies across the U.S. Online at


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