Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that makes it more likely that you may be diagnosed with a certain type of cancer. Some risk factors are things you cannot change—like your age or family history.  

Other risk factors for colorectal cancer involve things that you can change—like diet and exercise. This is why it is so important for you to understand your different risk factors and know which ones you CAN change to lower your risk or chance of getting diagnosed with cancer. 

Colonoscopy: Early Screening for Colorectal Cancer in Tampa, FL

The American Cancer Society recommends that all American adults age 50 and above have a colorectal cancer screening called a colonoscopy. Since symptoms of colorectal cancer are often silent, it is important to get screened regularly. Screenings test for a disease even if the patient has no symptoms. 

During this test, your doctor uses a microscope, light and camera to examine the inside of your colon for signs of cancer.  If you know you have an increased risk due to family history, you should talk to your doctor about having a colonoscopy before the age of 50. 

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer: Things You Cannot Change

  • Age—Your risk of developing colorectal cancer increases after age 50
  • Personal history of the following conditions:
    • Colorectal polyps
    • Colorectal cancer—if you’ve had colorectal cancer previously, you may be at risk for new cancers in other areas of your colon or rectum.
    • Inflammatory bowel disease, including ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
    • Family history of colorectal cancer—your risk of developing colorectal cancer is doubled if a close relative (mother, father, sister, brother) had colorectal cancer
    • Inherited conditions or family syndromes such as Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (Lynch Syndrome) can predispose you to colorectal cancer
  • Race and ethnicity— Some racial and ethnic groups, such as African Americans and people of Eastern European descent have a higher risk for colorectal cancer. African-American and Hispanic men and women are less likely to be diagnosed in early, more easily treated stages of the disease.
  • Type 2 diabetes 

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer: Things You Can Change 

If you know you are at risk for colorectal cancer, there are things you can do to improve your risk:

  • Diet - eat a diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to help you become healthy and stay healthy.
  • Weight - maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise - being physically active for at least 30 minutes, a minimum of five days a week will improve your overall health, as well as your risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Smoking - stop smoking to prevent many types of cancer, including colorectal cancer
  • Alcohol - limit your consumption of alcohol to no more than two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women 

Talk to your doctor about the following factors—your age, family history and personal health history—to find out what you can do to reduce your risk of developing colorectal cancer. 

For more information about the Cancer Institute or for a physician referral, please call the Cancer HelpLine at (800) 882-4123 or (813) 870-4123.