Michigan Association of Health Plans

Testing key to prevention of colon cancer

This article appeared in Up North’s Voice. Read more here

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, with a lifetime risk of about 1 in 23 (4.3%) for men and 1 in 25 (4.0%) for women. The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 106,180 new cases of colon cancer diagnosed in the United States in 2022 and 44,850cases of rectal cancer. It is estimated that colorectal cancers will cause about 52,580 deaths during 2022. Central Michigan District Health Department wants to ensure the public knows that colorectal cancer is preventable with early detection.

The death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping in both men and women since the mid-1980s, mainly because more people are getting screened and changing their lifestyle-related risk factors. From 2013 to 2017, incidence rates dropped by 1% each year. This downward trend is mostly in older adults and masks the rising incidence among younger adults since at least the mid-1990s. From 2012 through 2016, it increased every year by 2% in people younger than 50 and 1% in people 50-64. Colorectal polyps are being found earlier by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers or are being found when the disease is easier to treat. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last few decades. As a result, there are now more than 1.5 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States. There are often no symptoms when colorectal cancer is first developing which means it can only be detected through regular early screening.

Being over age 50, having a family history of colorectal cancer, having a history of colon polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, and having a history of certain cancers are all factors that create a higher risk for colorectal cancer. All men and women of average risk for colorectal cancer should have regular colorectal cancer screenings, starting at the age of 50. Your doctor may recommend earlier screening if you have one or more risk factors. Call your medical care provider and ask about his/her recommendations for screening.

Other factors, such as obesity, long-time eating of red meat or processed meat, tobacco use, low vitamin D levels and moderate alcohol use can increase risks of colorectal cancer. Lifestyle modifications, such as eating fruits, vegetables, and high fiber foods, exercising regularly, not smoking, limiting your alcohol consumption, and maintaining a healthy body weight have been reported to decrease the risks of colorectal cancer.If you have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, your cancer care team will discuss your treatment options with you. There are several options for treating colorectal cancer, but the most successful option starts with catching it early by participating in prevention screenings.

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