Early detection and removal of colon polyps is one of the keys to staving off colorectal cancer, Formosa Cancer Foundation chief executive officer Lai Gi-ming (賴基銘) said yesterday, adding that people in their 30s are not exempt from developing pre-cancerous polyps.
Colorectal cancer is the malignancy with the highest incidence in the country, with 14,040 people found to have the cancer in 2010, said the foundation, which has been running a colorectal cancer screening promotion for the Health Promotion Administration for four years.
“Previously, people have usually not become aware that they have the disease until it was into its third stage,” said Lai, who is also the director of the hematology and oncology division at Wan Fang Hospital. “Now, with screening tests [such as fecal occult blood test and colonoscopy], we detect mostly pre-cancerous cells or early-stage colorectal cancers.”
The foundation’s event last year had 701 participants undergoing a colonoscopy, 57 percent of which, or 403 people, were found to have polyps and 13 of those with polyps had early stage colon cancer.
“Males, according to the data, were 1.3 times more likely to have developed colon polyps,” Lai said.
The risk of developing polyps between the groups of those in their 40s, 50s and 60s was not as apparent, with all of them having equally high rates (64 percent, 58 percent and 60 percent respectively), the foundation said.
“It should be noted that of the 68 people aged from 30 to 39 who underwent a colonoscopy, 35, more than 50 percent, were also detected with polyps to be removed,” the foundation chief said. “However, only 9 percent of them have a family history of the disease, indicating that diet and lifestyle might be the determining factors.”
“As it takes 10 to 15 years for a precancerous polyp to develop into colorectal cancer, early detection and treatment can greatly lower the risk. Studies have shown that having a fecal occult blood test every 1 or 2 years allows for a reduction by 18 percent to 33 percent in mortality from colorectal cancer,” Lai added.
The doctor said that as more people, including young people, are found with polyps or lesions without a family history of colorectal cancer, the risk factors in need of attention are lifestyle-related ones.
“High-fat, high-calorie and low-fiber diets, smoking, alcohol and physical inactivity are all factors that increase one’s risk of colorectal cancer,” Lai said.