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I am 35 years old and a healthy person with constipation for weeks .
Is it a symptom of cancer?. Chance of colorectal cancer? and what about carcinoembryonic antigen test and genetics.



Dear Barak,

Colorectal cancer is rare in young people. Fewer than 6 percent of cases occur before the age of 50 years old. Incidences increase markedly after the age of 50, continues to rise until the age of 75, and then tapers off. The average age at the time of diagnosis is 60 years old. The causes of colorectal cancer include:

-Polyp formation
-Genetic defects on chromosomes 2, 5, 17, and 18
-Family history of colon cancer related to genetic syndromes, such as HNPCC (Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer) syndrome of familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). Both are rare diseases.
-Eating a high-fat, low-fiber/calcium diet
-Lack of exercise
Some people are more at risk for developing colorectal cancer. The risk factors include:
-Being over 50 years of age
-Family history of colorectal cancer
-Evidence of or previous polyps in the colon and rectum
-Having FAP or HNPCC
-Having inflammatory bowel disease, such as ulcerative colitis (inflammation of the colon lining) or Crohn's disease (an ulcerative condition of the small and large bowels) -
-Eating diets high in fat and low in fiber and calcium .

-Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer are
-Diarrhea or constipation
-Change in bowel habits
-Blood in or on the stool (either bright red or very dark in color)
-Narrow stools
-General stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness, and/or cramps)
-Frequent gas pains
-Feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
-Weight loss with no known reason

Carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is an antigen (protein) present in very small quantities in adult tissue.

A greater than normal amount may be suggestive of cancer. Normally, its values range from 0.0 to 2.5 nanograms per milliliter of serum (from blood), in non-smokers.

CEA levels are higher, on average, in men, smokers, and older individuals.

Tests for its presence aid in screening, in evaluating recurrent or disseminated disease, and in gauging the success of surgical removal of malignant tumors.

CEA is a substance normally found in a fetus which, when found at elevated levels in the blood of adults, may indicate the presence of colorectal cancer or other types of cancer. CEA is therefore called a tumor marker.

It has been used to monitor patients for the recurrence of a number of different cancers, including breast, thyroid, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, stomach, and colon/rectal.

It is also referred to as an "oncofetal antigen" because of its similarity to fetal tissue. CEA levels can also be an indication of the effectiveness of treatment.

Progression of colorectal cancer is associated with multiple tumor suppressor gene defects but inhibition of tumorigenicity is accomplished by correction of any single defect via chromosome transfer.

Colorectal cancer has been associated with the activation of ras oncogenes and with the deletion of multiple chromosomal regions including chromosomes 5q, 17p, and 18q.

Such chromosome loss is often suggestive of the deletion or loss of function of tumor suppressor genes.

Multiple defects in tumor suppressor genes seem to be required for progression to the malignant state in colorectal cancer,

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