What Are The Risk Factors For Colon Cancer?

Aug 01, 2022

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Thankfully, with proper screening, this cancer is preventable.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. Thankfully, with proper screening, this cancer is preventable.

My patients often ask me about the risk factors for colon cancer. A risk factor is anything that affects your chance of developing a particular disease. If you have a risk factor, it does not mean you will get the disease.

Colon Cancer Risk Factors

The following factors may increase your chance of developing colon cancer:

  • Age: While colon cancer can strike at any age; 90% of all colon cancers are found in people who are 50 and older.
  • Race: African Americans are at higher risk for developing colon cancer than other races.
  • Gender: Men get colon cancer more often than women. More than half of the 132,700 new cases that occur each year are in men.
  • Diet: Red and processed meats have been linked with colon cancer. According to recent research, eating more than 100 grams of red or processed meat per day can increase the risk of colon cancer by 17 percent. Consuming a variety of high-fiber foods, such as fruits and vegetables, may offer some protection.
  • Smoking & Alcohol Use: Long-term smokers and people who drink heavily for many years are also more likely to develop colon cancer.
  • Activity level: Sedentary people are at higher risk of developing colon cancer.
  • Medical History: Many conditions and diseases are associated with a higher incidence of colon cancer, including diabetes and obesity. If you’ve had ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease for more than 10 years, you may be at an increased risk. People with long-term immunosuppression as a result of childhood cancer or radiation may also be more likely to develop colon cancer later in life. Kidney cancer and also certain kinds of colon polyps increase your chance of developing cancer, particularly if you’ve had polyps more than once.

Family History As A Colon Cancer Risk Factor

It is important to know your family history. If someone in your family has had colon cancer or precancerous polyps, you may be at increased risk. If a close relative had colon cancer, it is recommended that you start colon cancer screenings 10 years before you reach the age at which your sibling or parent developed the cancer.

Inherited syndromes, including Lynch syndrome, also increase the risk of colon cancer.

Controlling Your Risk Factors and Preventing Colon Cancer

You can control some risk factors, such as lifestyle risk factors. Take steps now to exercise regularly, follow a healthy diet, stop smoking, and limit alcohol use.

Talk with your doctor to determine when you should have a colonoscopy to screen for colon cancer. It is important to share your family history with your physician. Most people should begin regular screening at age 50 and once every ten years after that. However, some people need to be screened earlier and/or more often.

Is it time for your colonoscopy? Contact us today to schedule a colonoscopy.