Colorectal cancer includes cancers of the colon, rectum, and anus.
The death rate from colorectal cancer has been decreasing for the past 15 years, however, the American Cancer Society estimates that more than 57,000 people died in 2003 alone from the disease.
The American Cancer Society further estimates that one in 18 Americans will develop colorectal cancer in their lifetime.
Recently, public service announcements have flooded television, airing during commercial time during prime time network shows.
The announcements remind viewers that warning signs for colon cancer are often difficult, if not impossible, to detect.
"Some people find talking about colorectal cancer uncomfortable or embarrassing," said Lawrence Wagman M.D., chair, Division of Surgery at City of Hope Cancer Center in Los Angeles.
"But being aware of risk factors and taking active measures to prevent the disease through regular screening and a healthy lifestyle is very important."
Risk factors associated with colorectal cancer include the following:
- A personal history of colorectal cancer, bowel or polyps.
- A family history of colorectal cancer.
- Being older than 50 years if age.
- A diet of mostly high-fat foods.
According to Wagman, those at risk can take measures to reduce their risk by exercising regularly, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and limiting the consumption of high-fat foods.
In addition, some studies have suggested that supplements containing folic acid, calcium or folate might reduce colorectal cancer risk.
According to the City of Hope, regular screening for colorectal cancer is critical since many symptoms often do not appear until after the disease has advanced.
Individuals should see their physicians if they experience any of the following (although these may not necessarily mean colorectal cancer):
- A change in bowel habits that lasts for more than a few days.
- Bleeding from the rectum.
- Blood in the stool.
-Cramping or gnawing stomach pains.