Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
Almost all colon cancer starts in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. When doctors talk about colorectal cancer, this is usually what they are talking about. There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer.
General Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
You have a higher risk for colon cancer if you:
- Are older than 60
- Are African American of eastern European descent
- Eat a diet high in red or processed meats
- Have cancer elsewhere in the body
- Have colorectal polyps
- Have inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn's disease or ulcerative colitis)
- Have a family history of colon cancer
- Have a personal history of breast cancer
What you eat may play a role in your risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer may be associated with a high-fat, low-fiber diet and red meat. However, some studies have found that the risk does not drop if you switch to a high-fiber diet, so this link is not yet clear.
Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are other risk factors for colorectal cancer.
Hereditary Risk Factors for Colon Cancer
The following inherited conditions are associated with a significantly increased risk for colon cancer:
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- MYH-associated polyposis (MAP)
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC)
- Muir-Torre syndrome
- Turcot syndrome
- Juvenile polyposis syndrome (JPS)
- Peutz-Jeghers syndrome (PJS)
If you are concerned that you or a member of your family may have a hereditary condition that may affect your chances of developing colon cancer, talk with your physician and ask for a referral to the Scott & White Genetics Clinic for genetic counseling. Genetic testing to determine whether you or someone in your family may have a hereditary cancer predisposition is clinically available.