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Who Gets Colon Cancer Earlier?

Study: Men, Smokers, Drinkers May Get Colon Cancer Earlier
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

March 28, 2006 -- Colon cancer may start earlier in men, current smokers, and current drinkers, a new study shows.

The finding could mean that those people should be checked for colon cancer at an earlier age, the researchers write. Currently, people at normal risk of colorectal cancer are due to begin routine colorectal screening at age 50.

Colorectal cancer is America's No. 2 cause of cancer deaths, and early detection can boost survival, write Anna Zisman, MD, and colleagues in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Zisman's study raises many questions. Until those questions are answered, "the conclusions from our report should be limited to stating that drinking and smoking are markers for young age at colorectal cancer presentation," write the researchers.

Zisman works in the internal medicine department at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

Studying Smoking, Drinking

"Smoking is a well-established colorectal cancer risk factor, associated with a twofold increase in risk and implicated in 12% of all colorectal cancer deaths," write Zisman and colleagues.

"Results of most studies indicate that alcohol use causes a similar increase in colorectal cancer risk," they continue. Cancer is complicated and many other factors -- including genetics, lifestyle, and obesity -- are also important, the researchers note.

Zisman's team couldn't track all of those factors at once. They focused on smoking and alcohol, studying more than 161,000 colorectal cancer patients from a large, national database.

Data showed alcohol or tobacco within the past year (current smokers or drinkers) or years earlier (past smokers or drinkers). Patients' amount of tobacco or alcohol use, changes in those habits, and other lifestyle factors weren't available.

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