March 01, 2018
3 min read

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month: 10 updates about risk, prevention

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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, with Friday March 2 designated as Dress in Blue Day. These efforts aim to raise awareness of the importance of screening for this highly preventable disease, and to honor those affected by the disease.

More than 135,000 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2018, joining more than 1.4 million patients and survivors currently living in the U.S., according to the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. Further, the American Gastroenterological Association reports that CRC is the third leading cause of cancer-related death in both men and women, and is expected to cause more than 50,000 deaths in 2018.

The awareness efforts pushed in March emphasize the importance of routine screening colonoscopy beginning at age 50 for average-risk individuals, and at age 45 for African Americans, who may be at higher risk for the disease. Gastroenterologists play an integral role in these efforts and need to be aware of the changing landscape of CRC, from risk factors such as diet and age to screening and diagnosis. To contribute to these awareness efforts, the editors of Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease compiled 10 recent news updates on colorectal cancer risk and prevention.

1. Colon cancer often misdiagnosed in young patients

A survey of young-onset colorectal cancer survivors showed that many faced barriers to screening due to their age, and that most were initially misdiagnosed and then diagnosed with late-stage disease. Read more

2. Certain diets increase risk for colorectal cancer

Inflammation-causing diets, or those high in meats, refined grains and high-calorie beverages, appeared associated with a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer, according to results published in JAMA Oncology. Read more

3. Liquid biopsy test detects early-stage colorectal cancer

A test that identifies circulating tumor cells present in the bloodstream accurately detected early-stage colorectal cancer, according to results of a study presented at the Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. Read more

4. Young-onset colon cancers often genetic despite no family history

One in five patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer younger than age 50 showed an inherited genetic predisposition to the disease, yet more than half of these patients lacked a clinical or family history that would typically indicate the need for genetic testing, according to new research. Read more

5. Ultra-processed foods linked to increased cancer risk

Individuals who ate more “ultra-processed” foods showed a higher risk for cancer in a large prospective study of adults in France, including a borderline trend of increased risk for colorectal cancer. Read more


6. Colon cancer risk linked to nitrate in drinking water, even at ‘safe’ levels

A large epidemiological study published in the International Journal of Cancer reported that nitrate in drinking water, even at low levels, correlated with an increased risk for colorectal cancer. These findings confirmed long-held suspicions that long-term exposure to nitrate — a common groundwater contaminant that primarily originates from agricultural fertilizers — may be linked to cancer risk, according to investigators. Read more

7. Support for Noninvasive Options May Help Boost Colon Cancer Screening

According to experts interviewed for the February issue of Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease, the variety of available noninvasive CRC screening options could play a key role helping screen patients who are unwilling or unable to undergo colonoscopy. Read more

8. Colon cancer formation linked to two interacting bacteria strains

Two species of bacteria appear to work together to help the formation of colon cancer in patients with a hereditary form of the disease, according to a pair of new studies published in Cell Host & Microbe and Science. Read more

9. Addressing research gaps in colorectal cancer key to improve future outcomes

Prioritizing research and funding could have an important impact on the future of colorectal cancer and its effect on society, according to a report published in Gut. Read more

10. Right-sided colorectal tumors have worse outcomes

Patients with stage III and high-risk stage II colorectal cancer had worse disease-free survival if they had right-sided tumors compared with left-sided tumors, according to results of a study presented at the Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium. Read more