About Colorectal Cancer

Risk Factors

Why one person gets cancer and another doesn’t? Your health care practitioner cannot always explain the reason to this question. What researchers show are that there are similarities and patterns of cancer in the population to learn what things around us and what things we do that may increase the chance of developing cancer.

Some risk factors can be avoided, but others cannot. For example you can quit smoking, but you cannot choose or change the genes that you inherited from your families. Smoking and inheriting genes are both risk factors for developing certain type of cancers, but only smoking can be avoided. Cancer prevention means avoiding the risk factors. Such as:

  • Age: The chances of having colorectal cancer go up after age 50.
  • History of polyps or colorectal cancer before.
  • History of bowel disease: Inflammatory bowel diseases, called ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease increase the risk of colon cancer. In these diseases, the colon is inflamed over a long period of time. If you have either of these diseases your doctor may want you to have colon screening testing more often.
  • Family history of colorectal cancer: If you have close relatives (parents, brothers/sisters, or children) who have had this cancer, your risk might be increased.
  • Certain family syndromes: The two most common inherited syndromes linked with colorectal cancers are "familial adenomatous polyposis" (FAP) and "hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC).
  • Race or ethnic background: Some racial and ethnic groups such as African Americans and Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have a higher colorectal cancer risk.
  • Certain types of diets: A diet that is high in red meats (beef, lamb, or liver) and processed meats such as hot dogs, bologna, and lunch meat can increase your colorectal cancer risk. Cooking meats at very high heat (frying, broiling, or grilling) can create chemicals that might increase cancer risk. Diets high in vegetables and fruits have been linked with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Lack of exercise: Getting more exercise may help reduce your risk.
  • Overweight: Being very overweight increases a person’s risk of having and dying from colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking: Most people know that smoking causes lung cancer, but long-time smokers are more likely than non-smokers to have and die from colorectal cancer. Smoking creases the risk of many other cancers, too.
  • Alcohol: Heavy use of alcohol has been linked to colorectal cancer.
  • Diabetes: People with type 2 diabetes have an increased chance of getting colorectal cancer. They also tend to have a worse outlook (prognosis).
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