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Waging War Against Colon Cancer

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Colon, or colorectal, cancer is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon). According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, early diagnosis often leads to a complete cure. Almost all colon cancer starts in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer.

You have a higher risk for colon cancer if you: are older than 60, are African American of eastern European descent, eat a diet high in red or processed meats, have cancer elsewhere in the body or have colorectal polyps, have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's or ulcerative colitis), have a family history of colon cancer or have a personal history of breast cancer.

What you eat may play a role in your risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer may be associated with a high- fat, low-fiber diet and red meat. Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are other risk factors for colorectal cancer.

Many cases of colon cancer have no symptoms. The following symptoms, however, may indicate colon cancer: Abdominal pain or tenderness in the lower abdomen, blood in the stool, diarrhea, constipation or other change in bowel habits, Narrow stools and weight loss with no known reason.

With proper screening, colon cancer can be detected before symptoms develop, when it is most curable.