Illustration with examples of colon cancer and colon polyp

Colorectal cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer among Asian Americans, and it is the third highest cause of cancer-related mortality. Colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates for Japanese American males and females were higher than those of every other Asian American ethnic group⊃;. There is a trend that shows Asian American groups who have been in the United States the longest are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. These rates seem to gradually rise as Asians adopt more American habits and diets:


What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer is cancer of the colon or rectum. Before cancer develops, it starts as a growth of tissue or tumor usually as a non-cancerous polyp on the inner lining of the colon or rectum. Some polyps can change into cancer, but not all do. Colorectal cancers develop slowly over several years, which is why it is important to get screened by your health care provider for early detection in case anything looks abnormal. It is as common within women as it is in men.

What are risk factors for colorectal cancer?

Listed are some risk factors for colorectal cancer:

  • People 50 years of age and older
  • Being overweight (defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than or equal to 25)
  • Having had or have breast cancer, uterine, or ovarian cancer
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Physical inactivity
  • Smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in excess
  • Eating a lot of red meat (beef, pork, or lamb) or processed meat (bacon, sausage, hot dogs, or cold cuts)

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include, but are not limited to:

  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Change in bowel habits
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Vomiting
  • General problems in the abdomen, such as bloating, fullness, or cramps

What steps can I take to prevent it?

Even if you possess some of the risk factors of colorectal cancer, it is never too late to take steps toward prevention of this disease. Some colorectal cancer prevention tips include:

  • Being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week
  • Eat less red meat and processed meat, and eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to help maintain a health digestive system
  • Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, try to quit
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day if you are a woman, or two drinks a day if you are a man
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Have a colon cancer screening if you are over age 50

How can it be detected?

If colorectal cancer is detected early, it can be more easily and successfully treated. Here are some tips regarding early detection:

  • If you’re at average risk for colorectal cancer, start getting screened at age 50. If you are at higher risk, you may need to start regular screening at an earlier age and be screened more often. The best time to get screened is before you exhibit any symptoms.
  • Talk about screening options with your health care professional. A colonoscopy is a test that can find pre-cancer and cancer and should be done every 10 years. A double-contrast barium enema also screens for pre-cancer and cancer and should be done every 5 years. A stool occult blood test is a test that mainly finds cancer and should be done every year. Any abnormal result from the double-contrast barium enema, or the stool occult blood test should be followed up with a colonoscopy.

Do I have any treatment options?

Surgery is the most common treatment for colorectal cancer. When the cancer has spread, chemotherapy or radiation may be given before or after surgery.

Where can I get more information?

Prevent Cancer Foundation

1600 Duke St.Suite 500

Alexandria, VA 22314

1 (800) 227-2732

American Cancer Society

1 (800) 227-2345


1. Grady, D. (2007) Researchers find distinctive patterns of cancer in Asian Americans. New York Times. Retrieved from

2. Health Justice Network (2010) API health disparities: Colon cancer. Retrieved from