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Here's What to Know About Colon Cancer, Its Warning Signs and Ways to Reduce Risk

People of all ages, including young adults, should be aware of the symptoms of colorectal cancer.

McKenzie Dillon Writer
McKenzie, a Certified Sleep Science Coach and proclaimed mattress expert, has been writing sleep content in the wellness space for over four years. After earning her certification from the Spencer Institute and dedicating hundreds of hours to sleep research, she has extensive knowledge on the topic and how to improve your quality of rest. Having more experience with lying on mattresses than most, McKenzie has reviewed over 150 beds and a variety of different sleep products including pillows, mattress toppers and sheets. McKenzie has also been a guest on multiple radio shows including WGN Chicago as a sleep expert and contributed sleep advice to over 50 different websites.
Expertise Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach, Bachelor of English.
McKenzie Dillon
Medically Reviewed
Reviewed by: Amelia Ti Medical Reviewer
Amelia Ti is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) based in NYC. She completed her Bachelor's in Nutrition & Dietetics at NYU and Master's in Applied Nutrition at Russell Sage College. Amelia's evidence-based knowledge and passion for the field allow her to translate nutrition research and innovation to the public.
Expertise Nutrition | Dietetics | Diabetes Care | Nutrition Innovation Credentials
  • Registered Dietitian
  • Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist
  • New York University, BS in Nutrition & Dietetics
  • Russell Sage College, MS in Applied Nutrition
2 min read
A woman experiencing abdominal pain discussing with her doctor

Talk to your doctor if you experience signs of colon cancer.

Natalia Gdovskaia/ Getty Images

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among men and women when rates are combined. While it's most common among older adults, it can affect individuals of all ages, races and genders. 

According to the American Cancer Society, rates of colon or rectal cancer have been increasing in people under age 55 since the mid-1990s, inching up by 1 to 2% each year. 

Knowing the signs and being proactive in getting care is crucial for colon cancer recovery. Below we discuss the signs of colon cancer, its risk factors and things you can incorporate into your daily life to lower your risk of CRC. 

About colon cancer

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The colon is a part of the large intestine; colon cancer forms here when there's an abnormal growth of polyps that form into cancerous cells over time. According to the Mayo Clinic, the polyps are small and may cause few to no symptoms. Regular screening is recommended, particularly if you have risk factors or are showing signs of colon cancer. 

According to a report from Yale University, colon cancer tends to grow differently in men compared with women. Rates of colon cancer are lower among women, but they're also more likely to develop right-sided colon cancer, a more aggressive type of colon cancer.

7 signs of colon cancer 

  • Change in your bowel movements or stool consistency 
  • Constipation or diarrhea 
  • Bleeding from rectum
  • Blood in the stool
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Regular stomach pain, discomfort or cramps
  • Bowels don't feel empty 

Risk factors 

Increased risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • You're 50 years or older
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Chronic inflammatory conditions like ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease 
  • Poor diet high in fat and low in fiber
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • An inactive lifestyle 
  • Obesity 

Ways to reduce the risk of colon cancer 

  1. Cancer screening: The average person should begin screening for colon cancer around age 45, but consider screening earlier if you have increased risk factors.
  2. Nutrition: Incorporate different fruits, vegetables and whole grains into your diet to reap their nutrients. Foods like berries, grapes, broccoli and brown rice contain vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that may have cancer-preventing benefits.   
  3. Smoke and drink in moderation: You don't have to quit cold turkey, but these habits should be practiced in moderation to lower your risk of colon cancer. 
  4. Exercise: Regular exercise can help maintain a healthy body and weight, which lowers the risk of colon cancer. Aim for 150 minutes of activity weekly, or 20 to 30 minutes daily. 

For tips on healthy living, here are tips on how to improve your gut healthsix low-impact exercises you can do anywhere and 'exercise snacks' you can easily perform for heart health

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.