Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths among women and accounts for about 29,000 deaths in American women per year.
A recent study concluded that women face a 38% greater risk of a more dangerous type of colon cancer located in the upper colon; because of its location, it is detected later than cancer in the lower colon and is therefore deadlier. Other cancers, such as breast and ovarian, are more typically associated with women, so many don't realize that for older women, especially those in their 70s, colorectal cancers are the bigger killers.3 More women over age 75 die from colorectal cancer than from breast cancer.
This is one case in which early detection can really make all the difference. Regular screening tests can help prevent colorectal cancer or find it early, when treatment is most effective. All Americans aged 50 and older are urged to speak to their doctor about having a screening test. It could save your life.
Western medical science often looks to diet when seeking the causes for deadly diseases like colon cancer, but studies do not demonstrate consistent results, even for things long thought to help prevent it, like a high-fiber intake. Studies have linked increased risk for colon cancer with eating a lot ofprocessed meat, like salami and bacon. Another study found that women with the highest ratio of red meat to chicken and fish intake had two and one-half times the colon cancer risk of those with the lowest ratio.
It is difficult to accurately assess the role of workplace exposure to environmental toxins, such as known carcinogens like dioxins, in causing colorectal cancer. At the same time, however, it is clear that mortality from this disease in the United States has tended to be concentrated in regions of past intense industrial activity (the North Atlantic Coast, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, and the urban Great Lakes area). Many believe that disruption of our natural environment is surely culpable to some degree in many of the diseases that are currently reaching pandemic proportions, and several organizations exist solely to examine such correlations. One such organization is the Jennifer Altman Foundation, which awards grants for research into environmental toxins and cancer.
The extent to which genetic factors, in isolation or in interaction with environmental factors, play a role in colon cancer is unresolved, although recent studies reveal that a genetic defect could be responsible for as many as half of the known cases. Family history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative has been estimated to confer approximately a three-fold risk of this malignancy. Scientists are continuing to explore genetic defects that may be involved in the development and progression of colorectal cancer.
Actions, Information & Opportunities to Help
There are many websites -- both comprehensive and single-issue -- dedicated to informing and analyzing issues related to colorectal cancer. Also listed below are resources that offer help, theoretical sociological works, cultural studies and multiple published news articles and campaign information pieces.
- American Cancer Society
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Colorectal Cancer
- SEER: Stat Fact Sheet on Colorectal Cancer
- Medline Plus - Colorectal Cancer (searchable database)
- The American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons
- Colon Cancer Alliance
- The Jennifer Altman Foundation
- National Cancer Institute (NCI) - Colon and Rectal Cancer Home Page
- Healthline.com - Crohn's Disease