What's Your Risk for Colorectal Cancer?
To determine whether you are at risk of developing polyps or colorectal cancer, print this test and respond to the following questions by choosing either "yes" or "no".
Are you aged 50 years old or older?
Age is a very significant risk factor for colorectal cancer: The older you are, the higher the risk. With each decade past 40, colorectal polyps and cancers become more common. Cancers are very rare in people younger than 40 years of age, except where there is a strong family history.
Have you had a colorectal polyp or cancer in the past?
If you've had colorectal polyps or cancer in the past, you have a greater risk of getting more polyps or having a recurrence of cancer.
Has anyone in your family had polyps or colorectal cancer?
Sometimes the abnormal genes in the cells lining the colon, which allow polyps and cancers to develop, are inherited. The more family members who develop colorectal polyps or cancers, the higher your risk. But in most cases, the genes become abnormal by chance or because of cancer-producing chemicals (carcinogens) in the foods we eat.
Do you eat more fats than fiber?
Many lifestyle factors have been associated with a higher risk for colorectal cancer. These include eating too much red meat and animal fats, and not eating enough fiber or fresh vegetables. Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle may also increase your risk.
Have you had inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis?
A long history (more than eight years) of ulcerative colitis or, to a lesser extent, Crohn's disease may contribute to the risk of colorectal cancer.
Have you noticed persistent changes in your bowel habits?
The presence of symptoms means that you may need attention beyond screening. The most important of these symptoms is rectal bleeding, while a noticeable change in your bowel patterns is also of concern. If you develop these symptoms, or you have one or more risk factors, don't delay in seeking medical attention.
Did you answer YES to more than one of these questions?
Having a combination of risk factors significantly increases your overall risk of developing colorectal polyps and cancer. For example, if you have already had a polyp, and find out a close relative has also had one, your risk status is increased. Risk status can change, therefore, and should be updated.
If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, you are at risk for developing colorectal polyps or cancers.
If You Are at Risk, What Do You Do?
First, pat yourself on the back! By taking the time to determine your risk for colorectal cancer, you have taken an important step toward preventing it. Now make an appointment with your primary care doctor, a gastroenterologist, or a colorectal surgeon.