2.6 min readPublished On: May 8, 2024

Find Out If You Are At Elevated Risk for Colorectal Cancer and What To Do About It

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men, according to the American Cancer Society. The majority of cases world-wide, according to the World Health Organization, occur in people aged 50 or older.

An article published by AdventHealth also points out that rates of colorectal cancer among young people are rising in recent years. African Americans are 20% more likely to get colorectal cancer than the general population, making them more at risk than any other ethnic group. The key to positive outcomes remains early detection for all populations.

If you need further proof that regular screenings are important, try these statistics. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with Stage 1 colon cancer is 91%, but that rate drops to 14% when the cancer is not diagnosed and treated until Stage IV. Since there are often no early warning signs, screenings for colorectal cancers are crucial.

Screening Guidelines

In response to changing rates of colorectal cancer in different populations, the American Cancer Society revised their screening recommendations in 2018 to consider people 45 years old and older. Previous recommendations started at age 50.

Colorectal screenings are recommended for people of average risk for colorectal cancers every five or ten years beginning at age 45. A colonoscopy should be repeated every 10 years, but if you opt for a CT colonography or a sigmoidoscopy, they are performed every five years.

At age of 75, the recommended screening schedule is more individualized. Based on your health, overall life expectancy and results of prior screenings, you may opt out of continued colorectal cancer screenings. It is always a good idea to make that decision in consultation with your doctor. After age 85, colorectal cancer screening is no longer necessary according to American Cancer Society guidelines.

Testing Options

People with average risk of colorectal cancers have a couple different testing options. In place of the visual exams mentioned above, you could opt for a stool-based test. These tests (fecal immunochemical test, guaiac-based fecal occult blood test, stool DNA test) look for abnormalities in your stool that could indicate the presence of cancer.

Stool tests can detect things other than cancer, like ulcers or hemorrhoids, so a positive result does not mean you have cancer. If a stool test detects certain abnormalities, you would need a colonoscopy to return a more definitive result.

If you opt for stool-based screening instead of regular visual exams, the test should be done every year. Your doctor can help you decide if you are a candidate for these less-invasive screenings.

High Risk Factors

Those at above average risk for colorectal cancers have a history of colorectal cancer or certain types of polyps. They may have a family history of colorectal cancer or a personal history of ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease. Having radiation to the abdomen or pelvic area for a prior cancer also puts you in a higher-than-average risk category, as does hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome.

Your doctor can advise you if you are at higher-than-average risk for colorectal cancer and can help you create a screening schedule that is right for you.




About the Author: Christine Andola

Christine Andola
With a bachelor’s degree in communication from the State University of New York, College at New Paltz, in 1990 Christine embarked on a blind journey to building a career. She moved through teaching in the inner city public schools, reporting for a weekly newspaper, writing user manuals and technical documentation at a software company, lobbying and public relations at the state level for national associations and marketing for professional services firms. Christine’s writing portfolio includes everything from newspapers to grant proposals. She has developed web content, written blogs, ghost-written professional journal articles and drafted ad copy. From technical writing to lifestyle feature pieces, Christine lives by the value of words. She enjoys learning about the people around her and sharing information in a way that resonates with readers.

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