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  • Writer's pictureSinead Mackintosh

Colon Cancer Awareness Post.

Cancers collectively affect more than 43 million people globally. 1 in 5 men and 1 in 6 women develop cancer during their lifetime, and 1 in 8 men and 1 in 11 women will die from the disease. Some cancers are more common than others, and a lot of them have different causes. Breast and ovarian cancers, in some cases, have a strong link to genetics, and there are genetic tests available to give a risk estimate for that person. Angelina Jolie had a family history of cancer and tested positive for the BRCA1 gene variant that is linked to ovarian and breast cancer and decided to have a preventative surgery (a double mastectomy) in 2013. This opened up a public discussion around breast cancer and predictive testing and led to women seeking medical advice who otherwise would not have done so.

Celebrity influence is a powerful tool to raise awareness. A few days ago, the iconic actor Chadwick Boseman passed away at the age of 43 from colon cancer. Colon or colorectal cancer is the third most deadly and the fourth most commonly diagnosed cancer globally. Roughly 2 million new cases and 1 million deaths were expected in 2018 alone. From all these colon cancer cases, about 5-10% are hereditary and linked to a genetic mutation from a parent. Several genes are linked to hereditary colon cancer, but the more common genes are associated with Lynch syndrome (MLH1, MSH2 MSH6, PMS2, & EPCAM).

Sometimes the genetic cause is not clear, and we see that 25-35% of colon cancer is familial. This means that we see this cancer more often in families than in the general population, but the gene has not been identified in the family. Colorectal cancer is not always purely genetic and is often a combination of genetics, environment, and lifestyle. Lifestyle includes diet, alcohol consumption, tobacco, etc.

Regular surveillance and early detection (through procedures like colonoscopies) are crucial to begin treatment and improving the outcome if the person is diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The guidelines for surveillance differ across risk categories and ages.

Speak to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about your health, family history, and cancer surveillance.

You can read more at:

Image of Angelina from: By Foreign and Commonwealth Office -, CC BY 2.0,

Image of Chadwick from: By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0,

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