Colorectal Cancer – Risk Factors

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Early detection can help find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when it’s easier to treat. It’s important to know your risk factors and speak to your physician about your screening options.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors by Demographic

  • Age: While colorectal cancers can occur in teenagers and young adults, the majority of colorectal cancers occur in people older than 50. The average age of colon cancer diagnosis is 68 for men and 72 for women. The average age of rectal cancer diagnosis is 63 for both men and women.
  • Race: In the United States, Black people have the highest rates of non-hereditary colorectal cancer and are more likely to be diagnosed at a younger age. Earlier screening may find changes in the colon when they are more easily treated.
  • Gender: Men have a slightly higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than women.

Lifestyle Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

  • Diet: Red or processed meats have been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking: Long-term smoking has been linked to a higher risk of many cancers, including colorectal cancer.
  • Alcohol: Moderate to excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to increased risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Weight: Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Lack of exercise: Physical inactivity can increase risk of developing certain cancers, including colorectal cancer.

Hereditary Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

  • Family History of Colorectal Cancer: If any of your immediate relatives or other members of your extended family have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, it may run in the family. This risk increases if family members were diagnosed before the age of 60.
  • Rare inherited conditions: Certain inherited conditions can increase your risk of colorectal cancer, including:
    • Lynch Syndrome
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
    • Attenuated familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP)
    • Gardner Syndrome
    • Juvenile polyposis syndrome (JPS)
    • Muir-Torre syndrome
    • MYH-associated polyposis (MAP)
    • Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)
    • Turcot syndrome

Other Health Conditions May Increase Risk of Colorectal Cancer

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease: Diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease may cause chronic inflammation of the large intestine, which can increase risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Adenomatous polyps (adenomas): While these polyps are not cancer, they can develop into cancer over time. Polyp removal can prevent colorectal cancer, and polyps can often be completely removed during a colonoscopy.
  • Personal history of other cancers: If you have previously had colorectal cancer, or ovarian or uterine cancer, you may be more likely to develop colorectal cancer.