June marks National Cancer Survivors Month. To help raise awareness, Aspen Valley Hospital has outlined the six most common types of cancer in Colorado. Knowing more about the most common forms of cancer in your state, and for your age, can help you prevent the disease and raise your awareness around common cancer symptoms.
Breast Cancer in Women
According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer in women is the most commonly occurring form of cancer in Colorado, with a slightly higher rate than the national number. The good news is, this number has fallen a bit over the past five years. People at higher risk of developing breast cancer include women, those with a family history of breast cancer, history of breast conditions, exposure to radiation, the onset of menopause, alcohol consumption, or beginning your period at a younger age.
Today’s guidelines recommend women should begin getting regular mammograms starting at age 40. Guidelines recommend every two years for those at low risk and every year for those at high risk. The number of women in Colorado 40 or older who have had a mammogram in the past two years was lower than the national average. However, there are a variety of resources available to those living in the Roaring Fork Valley. The Aspen Valley Hospital Breast Center offers a variety of resources, including counsel about preventive measures, expert mammography and imaging (including a free mammogram at age 40), and oncology care.
Prostate Cancer in Men
While the number of men who have prostate cancer in the state of Colorado is slightly lower than the national incident rate, it is still the second most common form of cancer in the state. Colorado saw a drop in cases per 100,000 residents from 2007 to 2015. However, the number has been creeping back up since then. It’s essential for men to work with their primary care provider to establish routine preventive health checkups.
Common risk factors for prostate cancer include age (approximately 60% of cases occur in men over 65), family history, and race and ethnicity. Prostate cancer is more prevalent in African American men and Caribbean men of African descent. Screening for prostate cancer should begin with a detailed conversation with your primary care provider. According to the American Cancer Society, screening discussions should begin at age 50 for men who are at average risk, age 45 for men who are at high risk, and age 40 for men of the highest risk. Screening is done with a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) blood test and sometimes, a digital rectal exam (DRE).
Lung cancer among Coloradans occurs less frequently than at the national level. Incidents in the state have been trending down since 2002 with a change rate of about -2.7% over the past five years. However, that doesn’t make it any less serious. Lung and bronchus cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.
The most common cause of lung cancer and the biggest risk factor is cigarette smoking. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cigarette smoking is linked to approximately 80 – 90% of lung cancer deaths. People who smoke cigarettes are 15 to 30 times more likely to get or die from lung cancer than those who don’t smoke. Other risk factors include secondhand smoke, radon, exposure to other harmful substances that can be inhaled, a personal or family history of the disease, radiation therapy to the chest, and diet. Talk to your primary care provider if you have these risk factors.
Keep up with more healthy tips and information from Aspen Valley Hospital!
Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in the state of Colorado. Recent guidelines recommend beginning colorectal screening at age 45 (modified from age 50). There are a variety of ways to screen for this type of cancer, including annual colonoscopies.
Our risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as we get older, however, that isn’t only one risk factor to consider. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes these additional risk factors for colorectal cancer: inflammatory bowel disease, a family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps, lack of regular physical activity, a low-fiber diet, obesity, alcohol consumption, and tobacco use.
Aspen Valley Hospital can help you develop a long-term plan for digestive health as well as provide screenings that contribute to prevention and early detection.
There is no way to know if you are predisposed to getting ovarian cancer, however, there are several factors that can increase a woman’s risk of developing the disease. Those factors include being middle-aged or older; having a close family member (either maternal or paternal) who has had the disease; having previously had breast, uterine, or colorectal cancer; having the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genetic mutation or one associated with Lynch syndrome; suffering from endometriosis; and trouble getting pregnant or never having been pregnant.
Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include a frequent need to urinate, back pain, abdominal bloating, unexplained weight loss, pelvic discomfort, fatigue, quickly feeling full when eating, or changes in bowel habits. Early detection is imperative to a positive long-term outlook when it comes to ovarian cancer. That’s why it’s important to get regular women’s health exams, including a pelvic exam. Schedule an appointment with your doctor if you’re concerned you have symptoms of ovarian cancer. Talk to your physician about screening tests for ovarian cancer. Also, genetic testing might provide additional genetic information regarding your chances of developing the disease.
The rate of skin cancer in Colorado has been inching up since 2002. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, and there are a variety of types of skin cancer. It’s important to understand these subtypes, especially if you are at higher risk for contracting the disease. Types of skin cancer include basal and squamous cell skin cancer, merkel cell skin cancer, kaposi sarcoma, melanoma skin cancer, and lymphoma of the skin.
While anyone can get skin cancer, some people are at higher risk, including people with blond or red hair; those with a lighter natural skin color or fair skin; people with blue or green eyes; people who have skin that burns, freckles, or reddens easily; those who have certain types and a large number of moles; and people with a family history of skin cancer.
Practicing sun safety is an important way to help prevent skin cancer. Swap sun for shade; wear long-sleeve clothing and wide-brimmed hats; wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays; and apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Given Colorado’s higher elevations, the sun can be more intense here. Amy Behrhorst, PA-C of Aspen Valley Hospital offers helpful insights and tips on how to keep your skin safe and healthy at altitude. Additionally, visit your primary care provider or dermatologist regularly to keep track of any changes or irregularities in your skin’s health.
The six most common types of cancer in Colorado are breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer and skin cancer. Understanding your personal risk factors is one of the best ways to help prevent cancer. Talk with your primary care provider about preventive screenings – both in the hospital and at home – that can help detect cancers early. Adopt a healthy lifestyle complete with a fiber-filled diet to set your body up for success. And of course, add in a daily dose of exercise enjoying Colorado’s famous fresh air to help bolster your long-term health and wellness.