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Top Myths About Colon Cancer

Separating Fact from Fiction


Updated December 07, 2011

Learning the truth about colon cancer is the only way to debunk the many myths surrounding this disease. Fact: Early screening and detection of colon cancer saves lives. This knowledge may help save your life or the life of someone you love.

Myth: Colon Cancer Only Affects the Elderly

Although colon cancer is more commonly diagnosed in individuals over 50 years old, young adults are diagnosed with colon cancer each year. You cannot control your age, but you can control your awareness of this disease and make changes now to reduce your risk later.

Myth: No One In My Family Has Colon Cancer, So I Am Safe

According to the American Cancer Society, the majority of people diagnosed with colon cancer do not have a prior family history of the disease. If you have a sibling, parent or another close family relative who has a history of colon cancer or polyps, it can increase your risk and awareness of colon cancer, but it is not a prerequisite for the disease.

Myth: Smoking Won’t Affect My Colon

Actually, smoking increases your risk of growing 17 different types of cancers, colon cancer included. There’s a silver lining – quit now and your risk will gradually decrease over time. The American Cancer Society noted a causal effect between years of smoking and risk of colon cancer in a 2009 study. Basically, the longer you smoke, the higher your risk climbs, and vice versa.

Myth: No Symptoms = No Cancer

Colon cancer is frequently diagnosed during a routine colonoscopy or screening exam, without any symptoms of cancer present. Once symptoms of colon cancer are present, such as bloody stools, weight loss or fatigue, the cancer may be at an advanced stage. Colon cancer is most treatable in its early stages. So, don’t delay screening while waiting for a symptom to appear.

Myth: Colon Cancer Is a Disease for Overweight People

Although it is true that obesity increases your risk for colon cancer, individuals of a normal weight are not immune to the disease. Protect yourself and reduce your risk by starting a routine that includes daily physical exercise. You don’t need expensive gym memberships or equipment – a brisk 30-minute daily walk could do it.


American Cancer Society. (n.d.). Consumer Brochure on Colorectal Cancer Screening. Accessed November 14, 2011.

National Cancer Institute. (n.d.). Fact Sheet: Obesity and Cancer: Questions and Answers.Accessed: November 17, 2011.

Snowden, R.V. (December, 2009). Long-Term Smoking Increases Colorectal Cancer Risk, Study Shows. American Cancer Society. Accessed: November 14, 2011.

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