Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths, and doctors generally recommend that patients begin screening for the disease at age 50. Typically, the disease is diagnosed in people in their late 60s, reported health portal HealthDay News.
Researchers led by Dr. Hemant K. Roy, an associate professor of gastroenterology at Northwestern University, studied 161,172 patients with colorectal cancer.
They found that drinking or smoking, and smoking plus drinking, were associated with an earlier onset of disease. The appearance of cancer was 5.2 years earlier among those who either smoked or drank, and 7.8 years earlier among those who both smoked and drank -- 63.2 years in women and 62.1 years in men.
In addition, women who smoked but never drank developed cancer 6.3 years earlier than those who never drank or smoked, compared with 3.7 years in men.
Roy believes that in addition to family history, smoking and drinking should be taken into account when patients are screened for the disease. People need to get colon cancer screening, he said. They need to tell their doctors all their potential risk factors for colon cancer.
Our data suggests that current tobacco and alcohol consumption would be a marker for people who are at risk for developing earlier disease, and maybe screening for these folks should start earlier than age 50, Roy added.