Risk factors affect odds of getting colon cancer

While doctors do not know the exact cause of most colorectal cancers, certain known risk factors can increase a person’s chance of getting the disease, according to www.cancer.org.

The following are risk factors listed on the cancer Web site:

n Family history. If you have close relatives, such as parents or siblings who have had this cancer, your risk is increased.

Some people with colorectal cancer have a gene defect that causes the cancer. But colorectal cancer is more common in families that do not have a gene defect.

People with a family history of colorectal cancer should talk to their doctors about how often to have screening tests.

n Ethnic background. Jewish people of Eastern European descent may have a higher rate of colon cancer.

n Personal history of colorectal cancer. Even if a colorectal cancer has been completely removed, new cancers may start in other areas of the colon and rectum.

n Personal history of polyps. Some types of polyps increase the risk of colorectal cancer, especially if they are large or if there are many of them.

n Personal history of bowel disease. A disease called ulcerative colitis increases the risk of colon cancer.

n Age. Chances of having colorectal cancer go up after the age of 50.

n Diet. A diet mostly of foods that are high in fat, especially from animal sources, can increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

n Lack of exercise. People who are not active have a higher risk of colorectal cancer.

n Overweight. Being very overweight increases a person’s colorectal-cancer risk.

n Smoking. Most people know that smoking causes lung cancer, but recent studies show that smokers are 30 percent to 40 percent more likely than nonsmokers to die of colorectal cancer.

n Alcohol. Heavy use of alcohol has been linked to colorectal cancer. -Cynthia Martens

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