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Colonoscopy and Colorectal Cancer

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What are major risk factors for colorectal cancer? 

Some risk factors are lifestyle-related and may be changed. Others are genetic and can’t be changed. 

Factors you can change:

  • Weight: overweight and obese
  • Activity: not physically active 
  • Diet: high in red or processed meat 
  • Smoking: frequently smoke 
  • Alcohol: heavy use of alcohol 

Factors you can’t change:

  • Age: people over the age of 50
  • Personal or familial history of colorectal polyps or cancer
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Racial and ethnic background: People who are African American or Jewish 
  • Diabetes: People with Type 2 diabetes

Having a major risk factor does not mean you will get colorectal cancer. Many people who get colorectal cancer do not have any major risk factors.

Even if I’m not at risk of having colorectal cancer, do I still need a colonoscopy and why?

Anyone can get colorectal cancer. Screening at the frequency recommended by your provider decreases the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer unknowingly, allows doctors to remove pre-cancerous polyps before they become cancerous, and hopefully catches cancer in the early stages.

Do colonoscopies prevent colorectal cancer?

Colonoscopies don’t directly prevent colorectal cancer. Colonoscopies are a tool used to screen for polyps, tumors, ulcers, redness and swelling, pouches (diverticula) on the colon wall, narrowed areas of the colon, and any objects that might be present in the colon. 
Colonoscopies are done to detect colorectal cancer in early stages or remove polyps that may become cancerous.