Black American

Colon Cancer Risk & Black Americans: What to Know

Colon or colorectal cancer affects the cells of your large intestine (colon), or the tail end of the intestine, called the rectum. The colon cells grow uncontrollably, producing tumors. Other abnormal large bowel growths, like polyps, can also turn cancerous over time.

According to the American Cancer Society, this cancer occurs in about 1 in 23 men and 1 and 25 women. Although more common in older people, since 2012, colon cancer rates have been steadily rising by 2% per year in people younger than 55. Among the 150,000 colorectal cancer cases occurring annually in the United States, 12% of people are below 50.

Causes and Symptoms of Colon Cancer 

Colon cancer risk factors include older age, African American or Ashkenazi Jewish descent, and a history of inflammatory bowel disease, colon polyps or cancer, or genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome.

Lifestyle risk factors include a sedentary lifestyle, low-fiber or high-fat diets, overweight or obesity, alcohol or tobacco use, type 2 diabetes, and eating too much processed meat or too few fruits and veggies.

Symptoms of colon cancer include:

  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Abdominal pain, gas, bloating, or cramps
  • Bleeding from your rectum (through the anus)
  • Blood in your stools
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Changes in stool consistency, frequency, or a feeling of incomplete evacuation 

Early cancer stages may be asymptomatic, and the symptoms can vary depending on the size and location of your tumor.

Colon Cancer in Black Americans 

Colon cancer rates are disproportionately high in the Black population, where African Americans are 20% more likely to get the disease and 40% more likely to die from it. 

This may be due to several factors, especially the lack of access to high-quality cancer screening and healthcare. The challenges brought on by socioeconomic and racial disparities include lower incomes and lack of health insurance, limited access to healthy or good quality food and housing, lack of high-quality education, and exposure to unsafe environments. Social stigmas like a negative perception of colonoscopy exams and medical mistrust can also lower the screening rate, preventing the cancer from being detected in its most treatable early stages.

Colon Cancer Prevention 

Because benign colon polyps can eventually become cancer, screening is essential for cancer prevention and catching the disease in its early stages. Cancer that hasn’t passed the colon and rectum has a 5-year survival rate of 91%.

To lower your risk of colon cancer, undergo regular screening tests from 45, even if you don’t have any symptoms. You may need to get tested even earlier if you have any risk factors like a genetic condition or bowel disease. To minimize your risk factors, you could also modify your lifestyle by eating healthy, losing weight, or quitting smoking and drinking.

What NVSCC Can Do for You 

At the Nevada Surgery & Cancer Center in Las Vegas, we provide genetic testing for hereditary conditions like FAP and Lynch syndrome to assess your cancer risk. We also treat various cancers, including colorectal cancer. Make an appointment today to receive comprehensive guidance and support for colon cancer screening or treatment and take control of your health.