The Link Between Age and Colorectal Cancer Risk

Age is the number one risk factor for colorectal cancer. More than 90% of people diagnosed with the disease are 50 or older and the average age of diagnosis is 64.
By the time colorectal cancer is diagnosed, it has often been growing for several years, first as a non-cancerous polyp and later as cancer. Research indicates that by age 50, one out of four people has polyps. To learn about other causes of colorectal cancer, please read about the 15 causes of colon cancer.

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More Information About Colorectal Cancer

In the United States, colorectal cancer kills about 50,000 people a year, and 150,000 people a year are diagnosed with this deadly disease. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

While the incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer has declined overall, there has been a significant increase in the incidence of colorectal cancer in patients under the age of 50. Because of these statistics, the American Cancer Society now recommends that screening for colorectal cancer should start at age 45 rather than 50.

In addition to decreased incidence of this disease among Americans and other Westerners, another bit of good news concerning colorectal cancer is that the treatment for advanced disease (stage III or stage IV colorectal cancer) has improved. Furthermore, we now have agents that are more specifically targeted to treat this disease.

Interestingly, when a person migrates from a country with a lower incidence of colorectal cancer (such as South America) to a country with a higher incidence of colorectal cancer (such as the United States), this person assumes the risk of colorectal cancer of their new home. In other words, environment in addition to genetics plays a significant role in the development of colorectal cancer.

In addition to age, here are some specific risk factors predisposing a person to the development of colorectal cancer:

Although no one can turn back the hands of time and become younger, there are other ways that you can cut your risk of developing deadly colorectal cancer. For example, some research shows that the ingestion of calcium, vitamin D, folate, or multivitamins may reduce your risk of developing this disease. However, the best way to prevent full-blown colorectal cancer is early detection using colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy. If your physician does find a suspicious polyp or lesion on an exam, this mass should be removed. If you're more than 50 years old and have yet to receive a colonoscopy or other screening test, it's imperative that you make an appointment with your physician and get screened.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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