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Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

Southeast Radiation Oncology Center - Thursday, April 05, 2018

Most cases of colorectal cancer can be treated if caught early, and a key to identifying signs is understanding the various risk factors and how they affect you. If you find that you are at a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer, you can more effectively plan for an approach for prevention and treatment. Refer to the information below about the main risk factors of colorectal cancer.

Genetic Risk Factors

Genetics are passed down to us by our family, and certain hereditary genes can leave us more susceptible to developing certain diseases and illnesses, including colorectal cancer. These risk factors cannot be avoided, but being familiar with our genetics and the risk factors that affect us can aid us in our actions towards prevention. The main genetic related risk factors for colorectal cancer include:

  • Family History - Having a family member that had colorectal cancer increases the likelihood of developing colorectal cancer. It is recommended that you schedule regular screenings for colorectal cancer several years before you reach the same age that your family member was diagnosed. About 1 in 5 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer had a relative who had it as well.
  • Race & Ethnicity - Genetics related to race and ethnicity seem to have a tie to increased chances of developing colorectal cancer, even though the specific genes that cause this have not been pinpointed. The ethnic groups that have a higher risk of colorectal cancer are African Americans and Ashkenazi Jews.
  • Inherited Syndromes - Certain syndromes that are passed down through genetics increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. These syndromes include: Turcot Syndrome, Lynch Syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome, and familial adenomatous polyposis.

Lifestyle Risk Factors

Various elements of your lifestyle can have a large impact on your overall health, as some unhealthy habits will increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. You can avoid these risks by making changes to your lifestyle, but you should still be screened for colorectal cancer as you get older. The main lifestyle risk factors include:

  • Diet - An unhealthy diet that is high in red and processed meats, as well as meats that are often cooked using high temperatures through methods such as frying or grilling, increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer. A healthier diet can actually lower risk; include foods such as vegetables, fruits, or grains that are high in fiber.
  • Smoking & Alcohol - While smoking is also a concern for developing lung cancer, swallowing cancer-causing substances that are related to smoking can increase the risk of colorectal cancer as well. Drinking large amounts of alcohol can also heighten risk. It is recommended that heavy drinkers and smokers schedule cancer screenings at an earlier age.
  • Not Physically Active - Exercise is important for managing both weight and blood sugar levels, which have a role in cancer development. Without exercise, the risk is higher, but with a healthy amounts of regular exercise, the risk can be lowered.

General Risks For Colorectal Cancer

General risks for developing colorectal cancer are not always possible to avoid or control, but can be counteracted with regular screenings and early treatment to ensure that any signs are caught early. The main general risk factors include:

  • Age - About 95% of colorectal cancer cases are diagnosed after the age of 45, meaning that risk of developing it past that age is higher. It is recommended that you schedule regular screens once you reach or get close to this age. If you have a higher risk due to other genetic or lifestyle factors, the recommended age for prevention efforts may be earlier.
  • Previous Cases Of Cancer Or Polyps - Patients that have had colorectal cancer or polyps are at a higher risk for developing it in other areas in the future. The presence of cancer or polyps mean that the body is already at the stage where this condition can develop.
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)- IBD increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer, with higher risks for those who have suffered from IBD for longer periods, or have more a more serious case of IBD.
  • Obesity - Overweight individuals are 30% more likely to develop colorectal cancer, since obesity is tied to higher risks of inflammation in the body or unstable blood sugar levels, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.
  • Type II Diabetes - Having diabetes increases the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 20-50%. While the link between cancer and diabetes is not yet fully understood, it is recommended that those with diabetes seek cancer prevention assistance or early treatment to ensure that colorectal cancer does not develop or advance to later stages.

Contact Us With Any Questions!

For any additional questions that you may have about the risk factors for developing colorectal cancer, contact us at Southeast Radiation Oncology Center. Located in Juneau, AK, we offer professional radiation cancer treatment for colorectal cancer and other conditions. We look forward to assisting you soon.


At Southeast Radiation Oncology Center, we know that cancer patients are best served by being treated in close proximity to a support network of family and friends. We offer patients in Southeast Alaska the ability to receive state-of-the-art radiation therapy without the burden of traveling great distances away from home.The information presented on this website is provided to allow our patients to gain more knowledge about our center, our staff, and our services.