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Colon cancer risks: High-fat diet, family history play role

Cancers of the colon and rectum will affect one of 17 people. These cancers of the lower digestive tract are the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and Europe. Colorectal cancers are treatable if detected in the early stages. Experts recommend screening for colon cancer beginning at age 50 and screening by age 45 for those with a family history of cancer or those of African-American heritage.

Current screening tests include annual testing of the stool for blood and colonoscopy. Colonoscopy involves using a scope with a tiny camera to look at the lining of the large intestine.

Researchers in Germany are also working on a new blood test that may help find colon cancer. The lining of the intestinal tract can develop small pre-cancerous growths called polyps which can usually be removed during a screening colonoscopy. If these polyps are not removed, they can become cancerous.
Risk factors for developing colon cancer are:

•Family history of colon cancer or colon polyps.

•Low-fiber, high-fat diet. Colorectal cancers are associated with a diet high in fat and calories that lacks enough fiber or roughage. Add more fruits and vegetables and whole grains to your daily diet. Limit fried and fatty foods. Cut back on added fats such as butter, margarine, salad dressing, mayonnaise, gravies and sauces.

•A sedentary lifestyle. Regular physical activity can reduce the risk for colon cancer. Experts recommend daily activity of at least one hour. Walking, biking, swimming, chair aerobics and most sports are great.

•Diabetes and obesity. Insulin resistance and excess weight increase the risk of developing colon cancer and the risk of death from it.

•Smoking and alcohol use.

•Inflammatory intestinal conditions. Chronic intestinal problems like Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis can increase risk.

•Older age. About 90 percent of all colon cancer occurs in people over age 50.
Many people do not experience any unusual symptoms. Make an appointment to see your health care provider if you notice any change in your bowel habits that lasts more than two weeks, blood in your stool or persistent abdominal cramping or gas. If you have any unplanned weight loss, weakness or fatigue, get a checkup.

This article is a reprint of The time or date displayed reflects when an article was added to Google News Sep. 29