Whether or not you know it, there is always a risk of colorectal cancer. The American diet brings tastier foods into our diets that are not as beneficial to our health. Our diet may play a part in the increase of cases and deaths in people under age fifty due to colorectal cancer. Colon cancer isn’t an “older person’s disease” anymore. It is vital to know what symptoms and warning signs to look for no matter your age.

Why An Increase?

In the last ten years, doctors have noticed an increase in deaths because of early onset colorectal cancer in people around the age of 50. A study by the American Cancer Society found that the number of deaths among younger Americans due to colorectal cancer have increased by one percent each year from 2004 to 2014. The increase does not necessarily come from younger people being screened earlier, but from an actual increase in the occurrence of the disease. Although researchers are still unclear, some believe inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis) could be a factor. It is crucial to know the symptoms of colorectal cancer and to speak with your doctor about when you should schedule your first screening.

What Should I Look For?

The recommendation for those with average risk is to begin colon cancer screening at age 50. However, you shouldn’t dismiss symptoms even if you are younger. These symptoms include a change in bowel habits that lasts longer than four weeks, rectal bleeding or blood in your stool, persistent abdominal discomfort like cramps, gas, or pain, feeling like your bowel doesn’t completely empty, weakness or fatigue, and unexplained weight loss. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should discuss them with a physician at Asheville Gastro.

Am I At Risk?

There are some risk factors you cannot change such as a family history of colon cancer, your age, or your ethnic background. Be sure to talk with your doctor about any family history of colon polyps or cancer. Other risk factors are due to lifestyle choices. These can be modified, and you can start making healthier choices today.

If you are overweight or obese, even losing ten percent of your body weight can reduce your risk of colon cancer. A sedentary lifestyle is also a risk factor, so get active! Even if you have little to no physical activity in your life now, you can begin walking 15-30 minutes several times a week. Pay attention to your diet. Consuming too much red or processed meat has been linked to a higher risk of colon cancer, but a diet high in vegetables, fruit, and whole grains can actually lower your risk. Not surprisingly, smoking and heavy alcohol consumption also raise your chances of developing colon cancer. Aim for no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women, and if you need to stop the smoking habit, the American Cancer Society is a great place to start.

What Should I Do?

If you are age 50 or above and have never had a colorectal cancer screening, now is the time! Make an appointment at Asheville Gastro and don’t put your health at risk any longer. If you have a family history of colon cancer, talk with your doctor to determine the right time for your first screening. The doctors at Asheville Gastro are committed to providing the highest quality of care for you and your family.