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Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

There are numerous colorectal cancer risk factors that can make someone more likely develop this cancer. Knowing your risk factors can help you make informed decisions about scheduling medical appointments and screenings. Some of the factors for colorectal cancer are things which you have control over. Knowing these will help you to make daily choices to protect your health. Other risk factors, such as genetics, cannot be controlled, but knowing them will help you to keep track of good health.

Lifestyle-Based Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

While you can reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer by controlling lifestyle choices, there are some risk factors that are out of your control such as:

5 Areas of Life Where You Can Reduce Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

  1. Alcohol Use: Studies have shown that heavy alcohol use increases the risk for colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends drinking a maximum of one alcoholic beverage per day for women and two for men, and also touts the benefits of abstaining entirely for advantages in lowering many cancer risk factors.
  2. Tobacco Use: Smokers are more likely to develop and die from many cancers, including colorectal cancer. If you're a smoker, it's always a good idea to quit.
  3. Diet: This is an important tool in reducing a person's risk of colorectal cancer. A high-fiber, low-fat diet has been shown to reduce colorectal cancer risk factors. There are also several dietary choices that can increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. A diet that is rich in red meat like beef, lamb and pork, or processed meats like hot dogs and lunch meats causes higher risk for developing colorectal cancer. Other factors related to diet that may increase the risk of cancer include cooking technique. The American Cancer Society reports that cooking at high temperatures, such as when frying, grilling or broiling, may cause carcinogenic chemicals. Low levels of vitamin D in the blood have also been associated with a higher risk of these cancers. Having a diet that is focused on fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains is one of the best ways to reduce the risks of colorectal cancer caused by diet.
  4. Exercise: A sedentary lifestyle has been shown to lead to a greater risk of colorectal cancer. By exercising regularly you can reduce your risk level for this disease.
  5. Obesity: There is a link between obesity and colorectal cancer. By being careful with diet and exercising regularly, you can reduce your risk of obesity, and thereby reduce your risk for colorectal cancers.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors That You Can't Control

There are also several risk factors that a person does not have any control over. Some of these factors are based on genetics while others are caused by a person's medical history. It's important to be aware of these risk factors so that you and your doctor can determine the best course of screening.

  1. Age: This is a major risk factor, as approximately 90% of cases of colorectal cancer happen in people over age 50. This is not to say that younger people cannot develop this type of cancer, in fact for reasons that have yet to be discovered, incidences of colorectal cancer are increasing in young people. Age is an important factor in deciding when to begin screening for colorectal cancer.
  2. Personal Medical History: A person's individual medical history may contain several risk factors for colorectal cancer. These include having several diseases, including diabetes or any kind of insulin resistance. Chronic diseases that cause inflammation of the colon, such as Chron's disease and colitis are another risk factor. Additionally, having a history of colorectal polyps, also called adenomatous polyps or adenomas, puts you at an increased risk of colon cancer, particularly if the polyps are large, numerous or displaying dysplasia. Also, having had colorectal cancer previously puts a person at a greater risk of developing it again in the future. A person's personal medical history may indicate that it is best to begin regular colorectal cancer screenings earlier than age 45.
  3. Family History: The majority of cases of colorectal cancer happen in someone without any family history of the cancer, however, 1 in 3 cases will occur in someone with family relatives who have had the cancer. People who have a first-degree relative for the cancer are considered to be at increased risk. A first-degree relative is a sibling, parent or child. A family history of adenomas also puts a person at an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  4. Race or Ethnicity: There are certain races and ethnicities that have a higher incidence of colorectal cancer than the general population. People of African-American descent, as well as those of Ashkenazi Jewish descent, are at higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Learn more about when you should start colon and rectal cancer screening.

It is important to remember that having one or even several of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop colorectal cancer, just like people with none of the risk factors can still develop this cancer. It's important to know about these risk factors because it helps you to create a plan to stay healthy.

This plan involves working with your doctor to determine the best screening process for colorectal cancer based on your risk factors. It also means deciding what lifestyle choices to make to minimize your risk of developing colorectal cancer.