Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. The lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 21 for men and 1 in 23 for women. However, there are several risk factors known to increase a person’s chance of developing colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer. Some are lifestyle-related factors that can be changed while others cannot be changed. Knowing the colorectal cancer risk factors may help you take necessary preventative measures:
- Age: Any adult can develop colorectal cancer, but the chances of developing the disease increases after the age of 50. More than 90% of the people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are older than 50.
- Race: In the US, African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rate of colorectal cancer. Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe have the highest risk of developing colorectal cancer, more than any other ethnic group in the world.
- Family history of colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer: People with a history of colorectal cancer have an increased chance of developing the disease. This may be due to shared environmental factors, inherited genes, or a combination of these factors.
- Inherited syndromes: Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC) are the two most common inherited syndromes linked with colorectal cancers. Other syndromes that can also increase the risk of developing the disease are Lynch Syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome, and Turcot Syndrome.
- Obesity: Obesity increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer or death from the disease. Although being overweight or obese raises the risk of colon cancer in both men and women, men are at a higher risk.
- Diet: Certain diets can increase the risk for colorectal cancer, such as red meats (beef, pork, lamb, or liver) and processed meat (hot dogs and some luncheon meats). In addition, cooking meat at high temperatures, such as frying, grilling, broiling can also increase the risk.
- Physical inactivity: People who are not physically active have a greater chance of developing colorectal cancer.
- Smoking: Cancer-causing substances in cigarettes increase the risk of developing this disease.
- Alcohol use: Heavy alcohol use may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
- Personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps: One is more likely to develop cancer if the disease has occurred before.
- History of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD): Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
- Type 2 diabetes: Usually, people with type 2 diabetes have an increased risk for colorectal cancer.
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