Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
by Michelle Badash, MS
A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop colorectal cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing colorectal cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Generally, colorectal cancer is found more often in men than in women. Specifically, women have higher rates of colon cancer, while men have higher rates of rectal cancer. Colorectal cancer can develop at any age, but is more likely found in those aged 65 years and older. Risk typically increases starting at age 50.
Other factors that may increase your chance of colorectal cancer include:
Heredity is perhaps the strongest risk factor for developing colorectal cancer. It is estimated that approximately 20% of all cases of colorectal cancer are hereditary. This risk increases if you have a primary relative, such as a parent, sibling, or child who develops colorectal cancer.
Hereditary colon cancer occurs at a younger age. As a result, anyone with a history of colon cancer in a relative should seek screening early. Guidelines recommend a screening at age 40 or 10 years younger than the earliest age at which a relative developed colon cancer, whichever is younger. With inherited forms of colon cancer, the presence of the disease before age 60 in near relatives increases one’s own risk.
The 2 most common forms of inherited colon cancer are:
Colorectal cancer has been strongly associated with lifestyle factors. The following factors may increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer:
The following medical conditions have been shown to increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer:
Race and Ethnicity
African-Americans carry the highest risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer.
Ashkenazi Jews are at an increased risk because of a specific genetic mutation.
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Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
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Accessed February 27, 2020.
Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/colorectal-cancer. Updated January 22, 2020. Accessed February 27, 2020.
Glynne-Jones R, Wyrwicz L, Tiret E, et al. Rectal cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up. Ann Oncol. 2017 Jul 1;28.
Last reviewed December 2019 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 2/27/2020
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