Colorectal cancer: Risk factors -- Part 2 of 4

Posted by Keith Paley, M.D.
March 12, 2013

The exact cause of colorectal cancer remains unknown, but there are proven risk factors for the disease. You can change your lifestyle to avoid certain risks, but there are some you cannot prevent.

Unavoidable risk factors include:

  • Family history of colon polyps
  • Race (African-Americans are at greater risk)
  • Inflammatory intestinal disorders like ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease

Avoidable risk factors include:

  • Obesity. People who are obese have an increased risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer.
  • Unhealthy diet. Colorectal cancer may be associated with a diet low in fiber and high in calories and fat.
  • Smoking. People who smoke cigarettes are at an increased risk of colorectal cancer. 
  • Lack of exercise. If you’re inactive, you’re more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Exercising regularly may reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Drinking alcohol in excess. Heavy alcohol consumption can increase your risk of colorectal cancer.

Read more
Part 1: Screening is key to early detection
Part 3: Start decreasing your risk for colon cancer today
Part 4: Common symptoms

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