Like other cancers, colon cancer (together with rectal cancer, both are referred to as colorectal cancers) can be life-threatening condition – particularly when it is at advanced stage. In fact, it is one of top causes for related-cancer deaths. Treating it as early as possible is so crucial to gain better prognosis and outlook. Another frequently asked question, it is fast growing?
It occurs when one normal cell in the colon goes awry and becomes a cancerous cell. Experts don’t know the exact cause of this alteration. See also in-depth information about how colon cancer starts out in here!
Cells in the body grow and divide continuously to keep the body functioning normally. If one cell is altered to become a cancerous cell, it will continue to divide (even though when actually there is no any new cell needed).
Over time, a small cancerous growth can be a large malignant tumor that can be so harmful for the function of the bowel. Even if left untreated, the cancerous cells can spread to distinct organs particularly such as liver and lungs (see more the metastasis of colon cancer in this section)!
While there is no answer for the exact cause of the disease, experts have confirmed that some factors and condition can increase your risk. These risk factors include:
The disease is more common in older adults, typically older than 50. However, it can affect anyone, including younger adults (much less frequently). In other words, it can affect people of all ages, though again it is commonly found in older people.
Both personal history and family history of the disease can significantly increase the risk!
If you have had bowel cancer before, there is greater chance to have the disease for the second time in the future.
Furthermore, many people with bowel cancer also have a family history of the same condition. So if you have a family member (especially fist degree relatives such as father, mother, brother, sister, daughter, or son) with the disease, you are at high risk to also develop it!
These risk factors are unchangeable since these are genetic traits. However, this doesn’t mean that you will definitely have the same problem. There are plenty of options to reduce your risk and prevent colon cancer!
Some health conditions can increase your risk, too
- Chronic inflammatory conditions that affect your colon, such as irritable bowel disease (ulcerative colitis) and Chron’s disease.
- Certain inherited (genetic) syndromes may also increase the risk, particularly such as familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome.
- Diabetes! Poor performance of pancreas in producing insulin or if insulin doesn’t work effectively (insulin resistance) can cause chronic high blood sugar. Diabetics may have an increased risk of bowel cancer – unfortunately there is still no answer of how this occurs!
- Acromegaly, a condition that can lead to excessive production of growth hormones, causing an overgrowth of bones.
- Other factors such as a personal history of having had an organ transplant and organ removal (especially such as cholecystectomy, gallbladder removed).
Certain ethnic /race
Some people think that it is more common in Caucasian. But in fact, it occurs more often in African-American. Caucasian is at the second place, followed by Hispanic and other races.
Other cancer treatments
For instance, if you have had radiation therapy (particularly when it is directed at your abdomen) to treat previous cancers, this may also increase your risk of colon cancer.
- Poor diet, especially such as diet too low in fiber and too high in animal-based fats (like red meat).
- Sedentary lifestyle! If you have lack of physical activity, you are at high risk of lots of health conditions, including bowel cancer. See also the role of exercise in lowering the risk of some cancers in this post!
- Both your diet and exercise can play a key role to maintain your healthy diet! And having healthy weight can provide numerous different health benefits, including lower risk of bowel cancers. Even for patients with colon cancer who are also obese, they have greater risk of dying earlier if compared other patients with healthy weight.
- Smoking and heavy drinking (abusing alcohol)!
Typically, it grows and develops slowly. However, sometime it may also grow aggressively, depending on the grade of the cancer itself.