Earlier colon cancer screening

April 1, 2006 by  
Filed under CANCER

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Tue 28 Mar 2006 03:04 PM CST

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A recent study shows that people who drink and smoke are more likely to develop colorectal cancer at an earlier age.

Researchers at Northwestern University in Illinois looked at the records of more than 161,000 patients with colorectal cancer to determine if risk factors like alcohol and tobacco use should be considered in screening decisions.

Their findings are published in the March 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.

The researchers looked at the relationship between alcohol and tobacco use and the age of onset of colon cancer.

They found that patients who were classified as alcohol or tobacco users developed cancer at a younger age (62.6) than nondrinkers and nonsmokers (71.3).

“We were unable to quantify the amount of alcohol and tobacco used, which is one of the limitations of our approach,” said Hemant Roy, M.D., one of the study’s authors.

“All we can state is that those who currently used tobacco and alcohol – within one year of diagnosis of colon cancer – were younger than those who never used,” he added.

The study also showed that people who had quit in the past year still developed the cancer earlier, but Roy said the magnitude of their cancer was “very modest.”

The authors suggest that those who smoke and drink should undergo screening for colorectal cancer at a younger age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta report that colon cancer is currently the second-leading cancer killer in the United States.

The disease is treatable if caught early, and the best way to catch the cancer is with a colorectal screening.

The general recommendation is that everyone older than 50 should get screened for colon cancer regularly. According to the CDC, if this happened, colon cancer deaths could drop by one-third.

But the authors of the study maintain that physicians should recommend that people with certain risk factors begin screening for colorectal cancer at an earlier age.

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