Colon cancer is the third major cause of cancer for men and the fourth most common cause of cancer for women. Cancer of the colon and rectum, also called colorectal cancer, is more common among people who eat a western style diet than among people in Asia or Africa who eat an eastern diet.
The colon is the lower part of the digestive system used to process wastes. At the end of the colon is the rectum from which waste material is excreted out of the body. This long tube is the large intestine. Polyps can attack to the walls of the intestine without causing any problems. These are often discovered during a colonoscopy and may be removed during that process. Much of the time polyps are benign, not cancerous.
Polyps that are not removed from the large intestine may become malignant or cancerous if ignored long enough. Cancerous tumors may also cause damage to nearby organs or tissues. If the cancer spreads to other areas, the process is called metastasis. If the cancer is not discovered early and metastasis occurs, there is no opportunity for cure.
As far as researchers know, colorectal cancer is linked to diet and family history. Some people seem to be more inclined to develop this cancer than others, even with other dietary and lifestyle factors being equal. People who eat high fat diets are at higher risk for colorectal cancer than people who eat a balanced low fat diet. The recent revelations identify trans-fats in many foods in groceries and restaurants that points up the danger lurking in common foods. Neither cancer nor obesity is common among people who eat fresh vegetables, high fiber foods, whole grains and low fat meats or seafood.
People with a history of ulcerative colitis need to be closely monitored for colon cancer. With this chronic condition, development of colon polyps can increase due to cell damage. The benign polyps can "learn" or gain information from chromosomes of damaged cells in the colon that lead to cancer. After suffering from ulcerative colitis for ten years or more, the risk of colon cancer dramatically increases.
A known genetic link for colon cancer exists between first degree biological family members of persons with colon cancer. When there is a family history of colon cancer, the risk of developing it is three times greater than the risk for the general population. Don't be complacent, because only 20% of colorectal cancer occurs among people with family history for this disease. Most colon cancers, 80% in fact, strike people without genetic connection to the disease.
Colon cancer is a silent killer, often causing no recognizable symptoms until it's too late. Early detection with a colonoscopy is the best way to identify and treat potential cancer risks. There is no point waiting until older ages to check for risks. Colon polyps usually begin during adolescent years and may develop into cancer by age 40 to 50. General health recommendations are for a colonoscopy by age 50 and if all is well, repeat the test in ten year intervals.