Online assessment helps people understand their risk of Colorectal Cancer

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A free online ‘risk assessment’ from a leading U.S.-based hospital is helping people around the world take positive steps to reduce their risk of developing colorectal cancer, and giving doctors more data on the risk factors associated with the disease.

A Free Five-Minute Questionnaire from the United States’ Cleveland Clinic Analyzes Lifestyle and Family History to Check Whether Risk is Low, Medium or High, and Recommends Next Steps for Prevention

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer worldwide, according to World Health Organization figures, responsible for the deaths of an estimated 774,000 in 2015, the most recent year for which data has been published. Yet, according to physicians at Cleveland Clinic, it is also one of the most easily treated if detected early enough.A five-minute web-based questionnaire, which can be found at, aims to help people get that early diagnosis. The free assessment asks respondents about age, gender, ethnicity, height, weight, dietary factors, smoking history, physical activity, personal and family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, and adherence to screening.

After completing the survey, participants get a score of average, or above average at low, medium or high risk of colorectal cancer based on reported personal and family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or both. They also receive a family tree showing the relatives reported to be affected with colorectal cancer or polyps and a call to action outlining what age to start screening and how frequently it should be done.

“Our hope by providing this online assessment is that individuals could take it, print out the results with the call to action and take it to their physicians to start the colorectal cancer screening conversation,” says Carol A. Burke, MD, a Cleveland Clinic gastroenterologist, and past president of the American College of Gastroenterology.

“In turn, physicians can start the discussion with the patient about the importance of colorectal cancer screening,” adds Dr. Burke.

Dr. Burke and colleagues developed the online survey to provide patients with information about their colorectal cancer risk based upon self-reported personal and family history of colorectal cancer and polyps. The survey generates suggestions for each participant to modify risk factors through screening as well as lifestyle and dietary changes.

In 2017, analysis of more than 27,000 responses from around the world found that individuals who exercised more, followed a healthy diet and did not smoke were less likely to have a personal history of colorectal cancer or colon polyps. The analysis also highlights the modifiable risk factors, such as diet and lifestyle behaviors, reported by patients without a personal history of colorectal cancer and polyps.

The research was presented at Digestive Disease Week 2017. The investigators, Drs. Burke and Dornblaser, also found that less than 10 percent of all respondents stated they ate five or more servings of fruit, vegetables and grains per day, and only about 25 percent undertook at least 30 minutes of exercise four times per week. They additionally found that only 36 percent of respondents were up to date with current colorectal screening, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines.

“Colon cancer is a preventable disease. These results emphasize the known modifiable factors that can alter the risk,” says Dr. Burke. “Colon cancer has had significant decline in the U.S. since 1980 when colorectal cancer screening was first introduced, but these results show screening for the disease – and adherence to a healthy lifestyle – appear woefully underutilized.”

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