Colorectal cancer poses a serious health threat to both men and women, but men face a higher risk of developing this disease and are more likely to experience mortality from it. Here are some factors that increase the risk of colorectal cancer in men, highlighting the importance of early screening and effective prevention strategies.
Understanding the Risk Factors:
Several factors contribute to the heightened risk of colorectal cancer in men. While some of these risk factors are beyond our control, awareness can empower us to make informed decisions and decrease the likelihood of developing this condition.
- Age: Advancing age is a significant risk factor for colorectal cancer. This disease primarily affects individuals over the age of 50, and the risk increases steadily as we grow older.
- Family History: Men with a family history of colorectal cancer or certain genetic conditions, such as Lynch syndrome, face a higher risk. If you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it is essential to inform your healthcare provider to receive appropriate screening recommendations.
- Lifestyle Factors: Unhealthy lifestyle choices can significantly contribute to the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Factors such as a diet high in fat and low in fibre, a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking can all increase the chances of developing this disease.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD): Men diagnosed with chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, face an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. Regular monitoring and close follow-up with a gastroenterologist are crucial for early detection and prevention.
The Importance of Screening:
Colorectal cancer often develops without presenting symptoms in its early stages, underscoring the importance of routine screening. Several screening options are available, including colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy, and stool-based tests like the Fecal occult blood test (FOBT) and Fecal immunochemical test (FIT).
- Colonoscopy: Regarded as the gold standard for detecting colorectal cancer, a colonoscopy enables direct visualization of the entire colon and rectum. It can identify and remove precancerous polyps, thus preventing the development of cancer.
- Sigmoidoscopy: Similar to a colonoscopy, sigmoidoscopy examines the lower part of the colon. Although it does not provide a complete view of the entire colon, it helps detect rectum and sigmoid colon abnormalities.
- Stool-Based Tests: FOBT and FIT are non-invasive tests that detect hidden blood in the stool, indicating the possible presence of colorectal cancer or precancerous polyps. A colonoscopy is typically recommended for further investigation if these tests yield positive results.
Men can take measures to reduce their chances of developing colorectal cancer.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Adopting a healthy lifestyle is crucial. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and regular exercise can significantly lower the risk of colorectal cancer. Limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking are also essential steps.
- Regular Screenings: Routine screenings should commence at 50 for individuals at average risk. However, screenings may start earlier and be more frequent for men with higher risk factors, such as a family history or genetic predisposition. Adhering to the recommended screening guidelines can aid in early detection and treatment.
- Know the Symptoms: Being aware of the signs and symptoms of colorectal cancer is essential. Symptoms such as persistent changes in bowel habits, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue should prompt a visit to a healthcare professional for further evaluation.
Colorectal cancer poses a significant threat to men, but one can make a substantial difference by understanding the risk factors, emphasizing early screening, and adopting preventive measures. By prioritizing a healthy lifestyle and adhering to recommended screening guidelines, one can reduce the burden of this disease and improve outcomes for men at risk.
By – Dr. Bharat Prajapati, Consultant Laparoscopic and Robotic Onco Surgeon, PIPEC Surgeon, HIPEC Surgeon, HCG Cancer Center, Ahmedabad