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Colorectal Cancer Causes, Risk Factors, and Prevention

The experts at Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center can help you identify your risk factors and share information about how to reduce your chance of developing colorectal cancer.

What Causes Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer forms when cells in the colon or rectum mutate and grow, forming a tumor.

Many risk factors may increase your chance of developing colorectal cancer:

  • Absolute Risk Factors:
    • Age: Colon cancer is most common in people over age 50.
    • Family history and genetics: You may be at a higher risk for colon cancer if a family member such as a parent or sibling has had it, adenomatous polyps (colon and rectal polyps) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome). If you have an inherited disorder, you may develop cancer at a younger age (before 50).
    • Personal history: Your risk is higher with a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease or colitis), colon cancer or adenomatous polyps.
  • Modifiable (Lifestyle) Risk Factors:
    • Weight: Lack of physical activity and obesity are risk factors.
    • Diet: A high-fat diet, particularly animal fats, may increase your risk. Diets high in fruits and vegetables are thought to decrease your risk.
    • Cigarette smoking and alcohol: Your risk may be higher if you smoke or drink alcohol.

How Can I Prevent Colorectal Cancer?

While you can’t completely prevent colon cancer, you can take action to reduce your risk by:

If you’re concerned about your risk factors for colorectal cancer, consider making an appointment with one of our specialists. The earlier you start prevention, the better chance you have of not developing cancer.

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