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Five things to know about colon cancer

Colon cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths that affect both men and women in the US, and the third-leading cause of cancer globally.

This year, the American Cancer Society projects about 50,260 deaths related to colon and rectal cancers and the disease is on the rise.

Here are five things to know about colon cancer.

1. Rising incidence

A new study by the American Cancer Society reports an increase in American adults being diagnosed with colorectal cancer under the age of 50 - the recommended screening age - and no one really knows why. Researchers found that colon and rectal cancer death rates among 20- to 54-year-olds have increased by one percent annually from 2004 to 2014. Additionally, when looking at the trend by race, the incidence in death rates is confined to white young American adults.

2. Pay attention

Don't ignore symptoms and know your risk factors. Colorectal cancer and precancerous polyps don't always cause symptoms, so pay attention to screening guidelines, potential symptoms and risk factors. Don't ignore symptoms of blood in your stool, unexplained stomach pains, changes in the way your bowels move, and unexplained anemia or weight loss. Also know your risks. People with family history of colon and rectal cancers are at a higher risk for developing these cancers. The same is true for people with a family history of precancerous polyps, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Be sure to tell your doctor about your family history.

3. Get screened

Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and curable cancers if caught early. Getting screened for colorectal cancer saves lives. Screening tests can detect and remove precancerous polyps before they turn into cancer. Don't wait for symptoms to develop. It may be too late by the time you develop symptoms. Get screened. Consult with your physician.

4. Know your options

Talk to your doctor about screening tests that are available. Screening tests can be done using stool samples to look for blood or abnormal DNA. Tests like a sigmoidoscopy, standard colonoscopy and virtual (cat scan) colonoscopy are also available. Your doctor can help you decide which test may be right for you. Any screening is better than no screening.

5. Keep a healthy lifestyle

Follow these steps.

Bethany DeVito, MD, has practiced gastroenterology for 25 years. She's an assistant professor at the Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine and the director of Northwell's Gastroenterology Center for Women's Health. Dr. DeVito did her residency and a fellowship in endoscopy at the former St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center (now Lenox Health Greenwich Village).

"Colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable and curable cancers if caught early. Getting screened for colorectal cancer saves lives."
— Bethany DeVito, MD
Colon cancer incidence is rising.
Take the colon cancer Health Risk Assessment.