Risk Factors for Colon Cancer

As with most forms of cancer, colon cancer has a variety of risk factors. However, having these risk factors does not mean you will definitely face colon cancer at some point in your life. By the same token, not having these risk factors does not mean you will never develop colon cancer. If you have risk factors, though, it is important to make screening a regular part of your health regime.

Controllable risk factors

Some risk factors for colon cancer have to do with your personal lifestyle and thus can be controlled. These risk factors include:

  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Obesity
  • A diet low in fiber and high in fat
  • Lack of regular exercise

If you have controllable risk factors, you should consider making changes in your habits to reduce the risks, especially if you also have a history of colon cancer in your family. Controlling these risk factors will also improve your overall health.

Risk factors outside your control

Some risk factors are not things you can correct or change. These include hereditary factors or a risk that occurs as a side effect of another health issue. Risk factors for colon cancer that you cannot control include:

  • Race. Individuals of African descent have a higher risk of developing colon cancer, as do Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jews.
  • Family history. If you have relatives who have developed colon cancer or polyps, your risk is elevated.
  • Hereditary conditions. These include Lynch syndrome, familial adenomatous polyposis and Turcot syndrome.

You should discuss these issues with your doctor to see if he recommends earlier or more frequent screening. Screening is the best way to find cancerous cells in time for treatment to be successful.

Other risk factors

Some other risk factors for colon cancer include age, history of polyps (growths in the colon that can be a precursor to cancer) or a history of other forms of cancer. Although these risk factors increase the likelihood of colon cancer, some cases occur in patients who have no risk factors at all. For this reason, it is important to follow your doctor's recommendations for screening and prevention.

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