The colon and rectum are parts of the digestive system, and make up the large intestine. Most of the large intestine is made up of the colon, a muscular tube about five feet long, with the rectum making up the final 6 inches of the digestive tract. Most cancers that form here begin as a growth on the inner lining called a polyp, which is broken down into two main types: Adenomatous polyps, which can change into cancer, and hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps, which are more common but generally innocuous. Dysplasia, another pre-cancerous condition although lesser to polyps, originate in an area of a polyp or in the lining of the colon/rectum and is characterized by abnormal looking cells.
Although colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths when men and women are combined, it is also perhaps one of the most sensitive in relation to diet, exercise, and weight. And, since colonoscopies are able to detect polyps, colorectal cancer is a cancer that has a high level of preventive measures and therefore potentially more avoidable than other less conspicuous and less susceptible cancers.
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