According to a study conducted by the American Cancer Society, people who smoke and drink should be screened for colon cancer before non-smokers and non-drinkers since they tend to develop the disease earlier than those who refrain from smoking and drinking. Drinking alcohol and using tobacco products also increases the risk of developing all types of cancer.
Since about 90% of all colon cancer cases occur in people over 50, screening for the disease is generally recommended once a person reaches that age. Statistically, men have about a 6% (1-in-17) chance of developing colon cancer, which is considerably higher than for women.
Colon cancer is currently the second-leading cause of cancer deaths, killing almost 500,000 people each year. Lung cancer, which is also strongly associated with smoking, remains the leading cause of cancer deaths.
Data from 161,000 colon cancer patients indicated that those who smoked or drank alcohol in the previous year contracted the disease an average of eight years earlier than people who were life-long non-smokers and non-drinkers.
Individuals who smoked but did not drink, or vise versa, developed colon cancer an average of five years earlier than non-smokers or non-drinkers.
Male smokers and drinkers were diagnosed with the disease at the average age of 62. For female smokers and drinkers, the average age of diagnosis was 63. Women who smoked were particularly at risk of contracting colon cancer earlier. Family history can also be an important indicator of the possible onset of colon cancer.