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Colorectal cancer develops earlier in drinkers, smokers and men

Earlier onset of colorectal cancer appears to be associated with alcohol use, tobacco use and male gender, according to research conducted at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare (ENH) and published in the March 27 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States yet it is one of the most preventable forms of the disease. Screening not only helps diagnose it at an early stage when it is most curable, it also can locate polyps before they become cancer. However, once patients experience symptoms, the disease has already spread beyond the point where it can be cured. This is why physicians recommend everyone 50 years of age and older get screened for colorectal cancer and sooner for individuals who have a family history or other risk factors.

ENH researchers examined the records of 161,172 colorectal cancer patients from 350 teaching and community hospitals nationwide to assess whether alcohol and tobacco use, should also be considered in screening decisions. They analyzed the relationship between use of these substances and age of onset of colon cancer as well as location of onset--distal or proximal colon. Distal tumors, including those in the lower left part of the colon and the rectum, can generally be detected by flexible sigmoidoscopy; while proximal tumors in the right side of the colon can be missed by methods other than colonoscopy.

"The data clearly show that screening for colorectal cancer in people who smoke and drink should start earlier," said lead author of the study Hemant K, Roy, MD, Evanston Northwestern Healthcare. "If confirmed after further research, these factors should guide recommendations regarding the timing of colorectal cancer screening."

The data showed that alcohol and tobacco users developed cancer an average of 7.8 years earlier than those who had never drank or smoked. Those who had never smoked but drank or who had never dran
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Contact: Amy Ferguson
AFerguson@enh.org
847-570-3146
Evanston Northwestern Healthcare
24-Mar-2006


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