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About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is more common than many people realize. In fact, according to the Colon Cancer Alliance, it is the third most common cancer found in men and women in the U.S. (excluding skin cancers), and the third leading cause of cancer-related mortalities. Fortunately, due to awareness of the disease, earlier screenings and improved treatments in the last 15 years, the death rate and the number of cases of colorectal cancer have actually decreased.

Colorectal cancer originates in the colon (the large intestine) or the rectum (the last several inches of the colon). Since they have similar features, they are usually discussed together.

The extent of colorectal cancer depends on how deep it goes into the layers of tissue lining the wall of the colon and rectum. Most of the time, the cancer starts as a growth (or polyp) that develops in the lining of the colon or rectum, then grows outward. Polyps can be benign, but those that can become cancerous are called adenomas. Polyps can be removed before they develop into cancer.

Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Age (more than 90 percent of those with colorectal cancer are over age 50).
  • Having had polyps or colorectal cancer previously.
  • A history of bowel disease and family history of colorectal cancer.

Lifestyle related factors include:

  • Being overweight.
  • Lack of exercise.
  • Long-time smoking.
  • Heavy use of alcohol.
  • Type 2 diabetes.
  • Diets high in red and processed meats.

If you need to schedule a screening, contact your physician. To find an Overlake gastroenterologist search our online physician directory, or call our physician referral line at 425-688-5211.