ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- The chance of getting colorectal cancer increases after the age of 50 but colorectal surgeon, Dr. Jill Genua, said there is a very good argument for getting a colonoscopy years before that.

Colorectal cancer differs from other cancers because precancerous polyps can be removed through a colonoscopy. That’s why doctors like Dr. Genua encourage people to begin getting colonoscopies around the age of 45.

A majority of people who develop colorectal cancer are not predisposed. However, Black Americans are 20% more likely to be diagnosed and 40% more likely to die from colorectal cancer, Dr. Genua said.

The risk of colorectal cancer also increases for people who have a previous diagnosis of colorectal cancer or polyps, inflammatory bowel diseases like Chron’s, a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps, inherited gene mutations, Lynch syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, and prior treatment for some cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.

Prevent colorectal cancer

  • Start getting routine colonoscopies at the age of 45
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Eat a diet with a lot of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low in red or processed meats (lunch meat, hot dogs, sausage)
  • Have no more than one alcoholic drink a day (two for men)
  • Quit smoking
  • Get regular moderate to vigorous exercise

*Source: American Cancer Society

Genetic mutations make up a very small number of colorectal cases, between 2-3%. However, patients who have a family member with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) are more likely to have it themselves, according to the Mayo Clinic.

FAP is rare and known to run in families. Hundreds of polyps can develop in patients with FAP and have a fast rate of turning into cancer, Dr. Genua said. It’s important for women to know their family history and discuss it with their physicians.

Free colorectal cancer screenings

Women over the age of 40 with no health insurance, and who meet income requirements may be eligible to get screened for colorectal cancer for free through St. Peter’s Health Partners. Patients can call (518) 525-8680 for more information or visit their website.

People who live in Fulton, Montgomery, or Schenectady county can call the Cancer Services Program at (518) 841-3726. A list of programs that offer free colorectal cancer screening throughout New York can be found on the NYS Department of Health website.