Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors How do you get colorectal cancer? What puts you at a higher risk? How do you lower your chances of getting it? First, it’s important to realize there are some circumstances that you can control and others you can’t. Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on Twitter Copy this URL Share via Email Who’s at Risk for Colorectal Cancer? Anyone can get colorectal cancer (CRC). The lifetime risk for colorectal cancer is 5%, or one in 20. Colorectal cancer affects both men and women, as well as people of all ages, races, and ethnicities. It is one of the only truly preventable cancers thanks to screening. Colorectal Cancer Risk by Age Over 90% of people diagnosed with colorectal cancer are over age 50. As we age, we are more likely to grow colon polyps which may undergo gene changes that turn normal tissue into cancer. The older your age, the higher your risk of colon cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, the average age of a colorectal cancer patient is 68.Although your risk of developing colorectal cancer increases with age, anyone at any age can get CRC. Rates of colorectal cancer patients under age 50, a phenomenon referred to as early-age onset colorectal cancer, are on the rise. Fight Colorectal Cancer is funding research and working alongside experts to discover why this is happening. Average-Risk for Colorectal Cancer Most people you walk past every day are considered “average-risk” adults. All average-risk adults should talk to their doctors about colorectal cancer screening at age 45. The following factors are linked to a higher risk of colorectal cancer: Inactivity (little physical activity and exercise)Overweight and obese Little fruit, vegetable, and fiber consumptionSmokingHeavy alcohol use (more than one drink/day for women and two drinks/day for men)A diet high in red meat (beef, pork, lamb), processed meats, and fats Meat preparation including frying, grilling, broiling, or other methods of cooking at very high temperatures Increased Risk for Colorectal Cancer In addition to risk factors for average-risk adults, these situations will increase your colorectal cancer risk: Family history of colorectal cancerFamily history of colon polypsPersonal history of colon polyps, colon cancer, rectal cancer, ovarian cancer, endometrial cancer, or breast cancerPersonal diagnosis of type 2 diabetesPrevious radiation therapy directed at the abdomen Race and Ethnicity Plays a Role Of all racial groups in the U.S., African Americans have the highest incidence and mortality rates, although the cause of this is not currently known. Worldwide, Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) have the highest risk of colorectal cancer. Doctors may suggest earlier screening if your race and ethnicity present an increased risk. Advanced/High-Risk for Colorectal Cancer Carrying an advanced or high risk for colorectal cancer means you need to be aggressively undergoing screening and working alongside a physician who is monitoring you. You will be at an advanced risk if: You’ve tested positive for a genetic syndrome like Lynch syndrome or FAPA first-degree or second-degree relative has a genetic syndromeYou’ve been diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disorder (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s Disease If your family has a known genetic syndrome, screening may need to be performed earlier. Talk to your doctor about when to begin. Even if you didn’t inherit it, genetic syndromes in the family may increase your chance of getting colorectal cancer. Are You at Risk for Colorectal Cancer? Learn more about genetic risk factors in our Genetics Mini Mag. Learn More Risk of Recurrence If you’ve been diagnosed with colorectal cancer once, you’re at an increased risk of developing a second cancer or facing a recurrence. If your cancer tested positive for a hereditary colorectal cancer syndrome, you are at high risk. It’s imperative as a survivor, you work with your team and follow an aggressive follow-up screening plan. Although your risk is above average, colorectal cancer is still preventable. Reducing Your Risk of Getting Colorectal Cancer Getting screened for colorectal cancer is the most effective, and most important, way to prevent it and reduce your risk. However, there are lifestyle changes that can reduce your risk of polyps and colorectal cancer. Convincing Evidence Don't smoke, and if you do, stop smokingIncrease your physical activity (get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity each week)Maintain a healthy body weightAvoid overall body fat, especially fat around your waistReduce how much red meat and processed meats you eatUse alcohol in moderation Probable Evidence Eat more foods that contain dietary fiberInclude garlic in your dietDrink more milk if you can tolerate itAdd foods with calcium More Information No matter which risk level you find yourself in, it’s important to remember that colorectal cancer is preventable! In addition to knowing the risk factors, make sure you know the signs and symptoms!