Both men and women are equally at risk for colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is most common among people aged 50 and older but can occur in patients as young as teenagers. Over 75% of colon and rectal cancers happen to people with no known risk factors, which is why regular screening is so important. A personal or family history of colon or rectal cancer or colon polyps can increase the risk of developing colon cancer.

Hereditary Risks

  • A first degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) with colorectal cancer.
  • A relative diagnosed under 50 or more than one affected relative.
  • Family history of Lynch syndrome, FAP, MAP, or several other inherited syndromes.
  • About 20% of all colorectal cancer patients have a close relative with colorectal cancer.

Personal Medical History

  • Personal or family history of certain types of polyps.
  • Personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease.
  • Other cancers such as ovarian, breast, and endometrial.
  • African Americans, Asians, and those of Hispanic descent are often diagnosed at a later stage of the disease.

Other Risk Factors

  • Physical inactivity.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • High consumption of red and/or processed meat + very low fruits and vegetables.
  • Tobacco smoking.
  • Average of 2-4 alcoholic drinks per day have a 23% higher risk of colorectal cancer than those who consume less than one drink per day.

What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk?

Get Screened!  This is the very best way to help prevent colorectal cancer.

The American Cancer Society recommends taking the following actions to prevent colon cancer:

1. Get screened regularly and appropriately for your personal medical history and family history of colorectal cancer and polyps.
2. Maintain a healthy weight.
3. Live a physically active lifestyle.
4. Limit alcohol consumption.
5. Consume a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources; specifically:

  • Choose foods and beverages in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.
  • Choose whole grains over processed (refined) grains.
  • Limit processed and red meats.

Other ways to help reduce your risk:

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables with whole grains from breads, cereals, nuts and beans.
  • Eat a low-fat diet.
  • Eat foods with folate such as kale, Swiss chard and other dark leafy green vegetables.
  • Daily consumption of milk and calcium sources.
  • Take a daily multivitamin that contains 0.4 mg of folic acid.
  • Stop using tobacco products. If you don’t use tobacco products, don’t start.
  • Engage in moderate exercise such as walking, gardening, or climbing steps for at least 20 minutes three to four times a week.

Next >> Get Screened

Information on these pages is provided for informational purposes only. Consult your own physician before making any medical decisions.