Reducing Your Risk of Colon Cancer

Last Modified: March 22, 2012

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Question

I have a distant family history of colon cancer, aside from colonoscopies, what else can I do to decrease my risk of getting cancer?

Answer

Gloria DiLullo, MSN, CRNP, OncoLink Content Specialist, responds:

Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in the Western world. About 80% of colorectal cancers are diagnosed in people with no family history of the disease. The remainders of cases are what experts call "familial." These are families with several cases, which may or may not be linked to a known genetic syndrome (HNPCC and FAP). A person with one first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with colon cancer is 2 to 3 times as likely to develop the cancer as someone who does not have an affected relative. As with other familial cancers, the risk is less clear when more distant family members are affected. The general rule is to begin screening with colonoscopy 10 years earlier than your youngest relative was diagnosed. Be sure to discuss your family history with your healthcare team. Individuals with several relatives with the disease should consider meeting with a genetic counselor and possibly genetic testing.

This question and answer was part of the OncoLink Brown Bag Chat Series. View the entire Cancer Risk & Prevention Webchat transcript.