Cancer in the colon and cancer in the rectum often are referred to together as colorectal cancer. Approximately 106,970 new cases of colon cancer and 46,050 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2023, according to the American Cancer Society. Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S.
The risk factors that can increase your risk of these cancers include:
Older age Colorectal cancer can be diagnosed at any age, but most people with this type of cancer are older than 50.
African American descent African Americans have a greater risk of colorectal cancer than people of other races.
A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps Your risk of colorectal cancer is higher if you've already had rectal cancer, colon cancer or adenomatous polyps.
Inflammatory bowel disease Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon and rectum, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
Family history of colorectal cancer You're more likely to develop colorectal cancer if you have a blood relative who has had the disease. If more than one family member has had colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
Low-fiber, high-fat diet Colorectal cancer may be associated with a typical Western diet, which is low in fiber; high in fat and calories; and high in red meat, particularly when the meat is charred or well done.
A sedentary lifestyle People who are inactive are more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk.
Diabetes People with poorly controlled Type 2 diabetes may have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Obesity People who are obese have an increased risk of colorectal cancer and an increased risk of dying of the disease when compared with people considered normal weight.
Smoking People who smoke may have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
Drinking alcohol Regularly drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a week may increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
Radiation therapy for previous cancer Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers may increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
You can take steps to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer by making changes in your everyday life. Lifestyle choices, such as eating a healthy diet including a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains; drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all; not smoking and stopping if you already smoke; exercising most days of the week; and maintaining a healthy weight, all can reduce your risk of colorectal cancer.