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Colon Cancer: What Raises Your Risk


Topic Overview

Your doctor may recommend earlier or more frequent testing if you:

  • Already have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer.
  • Have a first-degree relative (parent, brother, sister, or child) with an adenomatous polyp or colorectal cancer. Some experts say that if you have a first-degree relative who has had colorectal cancer, you should begin screening earlier than age 50. They recommend starting at age 40 or when you are 10 years younger than when your relative was diagnosed with cancer, whichever is younger.1
  • Are an African American. Some experts say African Americans should start screening at age 45.2 Others say to start at age 40.1
  • Have had adenomatous polyps removed from your colon. This type of polyp is more likely to turn into cancer, but the risk is still very low.
  • Have inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
  • Have a rare inherited polyp syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC).
  • Have had radiation treatments to the abdomen or pelvis.

If you have an increased risk for colon polyps, the frequency of your screening depends on your overall health, age, and combination of other risk factors. Talk with your doctor about the types and frequency of tests that will be best for you and your level of risk.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Qaseem A, et al. (2012). Screening for colorectal cancer: A guidance statement from the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine, 156(5): 378–386.

  2. Rex DK, et al. (2009). American College of Gastroenterology guidelines for colorectal cancer screening 2008. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 104(3): 739–750.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerJerome B. Simon, MD, FRCPC, FACP - Gastroenterology
Last RevisedApril 12, 2013

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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