Risk Factors For Colon Cancer & Prevention

Colon Cancer
Colon Cancer

Colon cancer which is a type of abnormal growth that starts in the large intestine (colon). It generally affects older people, though it occurs at any age. Normally begins as small, noncancerous (benign) clumps of cells called as polyps which form inside the colon. Gradually some of these polyps can progress into cancers.

Polyps are small and produce few symptoms. If colon cancer develops, many treatments are available to control them, including drug treatments such as chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery.

It is at times called as colorectal cancer, which is a term that combines colon cancer and rectal cancer that begins in the rectum.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Blood in stool.
  • Rectal Bleeding
  • Change in stool frequency.
  • Change in stool appearance.
  • Rectal pain.
  • Abdominal discomfort.
  • Unintentional weight loss.
  • Anemia.
  • Fatigue 


This cancer begins when healthy cells in the colon develop mutations in the DNA.

Normally healthy cells grow and divide in a proper way to keep the body functioning but when cell’s DNA gets damaged and becomes cancerous, where cells continue to divide even though new cells aren’t required. The tumor occurs as the cells keep accumulating.

Gradually, cancer cells grow to invade and destroy the normal tissue nearby and   cancerous cells travels to other parts of the body to form deposits there –metastasis.

Risk Factors

  1. Older age
  2.  African-American race.
  3. History of colorectal cancer or polyps
  4. Inflammatory intestinal conditions- Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are chronic inflammatory diseases that increases the risk
  5. Inherited syndromes that increase cancer risk- Common inherited syndromes that increase cancer risk are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome, that is also known as hereditary non polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
  6. Family history – If more than a family member has cancer, risk is even greater.
  7. Low-fiber, high-fat diet. 
  8. Sedentary lifestyle. .
  9. Diabetes- Insulin resistance people have an increased risk
  10. Obesity. 
  11. Smoking.
  12. Alcohol.
  13. Radiation therapy for cancer. Previous cancers treated with radiation therapy increases the risk
Colon Cancer
Colon Cancer

Prevention of Colon Cancer

  • Screening Individuals with family history should consider screening.
  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains- Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants, play a vital role in cancer prevention i.e., Fruits, vegetables and fibrous food. 
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Avoid smoking
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight. 


Surgery for early-stage colon cancer

  1. Removing polyps during a colonoscopy (polypectomy)- If cancer is small, localized, in a polyp form and is in a very early stage, it can be removed during colonoscopy.
  2. Endoscopic mucosal resection- Larger polyps can be removed along with lining present in colon using special tools by a procedure called an endoscopic mucosal resection.
  3. Minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic surgery) – Polyps which cannot be removed during a colonoscopy can be removed using laparoscopic surgery. 

Surgery for advanced cancer

If cancer has grown into the colon or through the colon partial colectomy is done.

  • Partial colectomy

During the procedure, the part of colon that contains cancer is removed, along with an edge of normal tissue on either side of the cancer. 

  • Removal of Lymph node

Nearby lymph nodes is removed during surgery and tested for cancer.


Chemotherapy is drug used to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs are generally given after surgery if the cancer is large or has spread to the lymph nodes. In this process, chemotherapy may kill any cancer cells that remain in the body and help reduce the risk of cancer recurrence.

At times Chemotherapy is used before operation to shrink large cancer so that it’s easier to remove during surgery.

Chemotherapy drugs can also be used to relieve symptoms that cannot be removed with surgery or which has spread to other areas of the body. 

People with low-risk stage III disease, a short course of chemotherapy after surgery may be possible. This procedure may reduce the side effects compared with the traditional course of chemotherapy, and it may be effective.

  1. Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy uses powerful energy sources, such as X-rays and protons, to kill the cancer cells. It can be used to shrink a large cancer before an operation so that it can be extracted more easily.

Radiation therapy might be used to relieve symptoms, such as pain, whenever surgery is not an option. Sometimes radiation is combined with chemotherapy.

  1. Targeted drug therapy

Targeted drug treatment focuses on specific abnormalities that are present within the cancer cells. By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug therapy can cause the cancer cells to die.

Targeted therapy drugs are usually combined with chemotherapy. They are typically reserved for individuals with advanced stage disease.

  1. Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is the drug treatment that uses immune system to fight against cancer. 

The body’s disease-fighting immune system may not attack the cancer because the cancer cells produce proteins that blind the immune system cells from identifying the cancer cells. Immunotherapy works by interfering with the above process.

Generally immunotherapy is used for advanced stage of the disease. 

  1. Supportive (palliative) care

Palliative care is a specialized medical care which focuses on giving relief from pain and other signs and symptoms of a serious illness. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life for individuals with cancer and support their families. This form of care is offered alongside curative or other treatments that the individuals are receiving.

When palliative care is used along with all of the other suitable treatments, individuals with cancer might feel better and live longer.

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