Government of New Brunswick

1) What is colon cancer?

Colon cancer is any cancer that occurs in the large intestine, which is made up of the colon and the rectum. It is often referred to as colorectal (CRC) or large bowel cancer.


2) How do most colon cancers start?

Most colon cancers start as small growths in the colon or rectum. These growths are called polyps and can bleed. Over time, some polyps turn into cancer.

3) How is colon cancer affecting New Brunswickers?

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death for men and women in New Brunswick. Approximately 650 men and women are diagnosed with colon cancer every year, and about 230 die from the disease.


4) What are the warning signs of colon cancer?

Colon cancer grows slowly and often has no warning signs or symptoms until the cancer is more advanced. Common signs of colon cancer include:

• Rectal bleeding, or any sign of blood after bowel movements.
• Lasting change in bowel habits such as: diarrhea or constipation for more than a few weeks; stools which are consistently more narrow than usual; feeling that you cannot completely empty your bowel.
• Unexplained weight loss, tiredness, or exhaustion.

If you have any of these warning signs for colon cancer, please see your primary health-care provider (doctor or nurse).


5) What are the risk factors for colon cancer?

Non-Modifiable Risk Factors:

• Age over 50
• Polyps
• Family history*
• Genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome
• Inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease)
• Ethnic background – people of Ashkenazi (Eastern European Jewish) descent

Modifiable Risk Factors:

• Diet high in red meat
• Diet high in processed meat
• Alcohol
• Obesity
• Physical inactivity
• Smoking

*Family history of colorectal cancer in a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) may be the result of heredity, presence of similar risk factors or both.


6) How can I lower my risk for colon cancer?

You can lower your risk for colorectal cancer by:

• getting screened regularly
• eating a balanced diet high in fruits and vegetables
• maintaining a healthy weight
• exercising
• not smoking
• limiting alcohol consumption
• taking vitamin D supplements

7) What should I do if I have any questions or concerns about colon cancer?

If you have questions or concerns about colon cancer, please speak with your primary health-care provider (doctor or nurse) or visit