Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors and Symptoms

Risk Factors
Certain factors increase your risk of developing colon cancer. These include:
  • Age older than 50
  • Personal history of colorectal disorders:
    • Previous diagnosis of colorectal cancer
    • History of precancerous polyps
    • History of inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • Family history of colorectal cancer, especially before age 60
  • Hereditary syndromes
    •  HNPCC (hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer)
    •  FAP (familial adenomatous polyposis)
  • Diabetes
  • Ethnicity
    • Eastern European Jewish heritage
    • African-American heritage
  • Lifestyle factors
    • High-fat diet from animal sources, especially red meats and processed meats
    • Lack of exercise
    • Obesity
    • Cigarette smoking
    • Heavy consumption of alcohol
Possible signs of cancer of the colon and/or rectum include a change in bowel habits or blood in the stool. These and other symptoms may be caused by colon and/or rectum cancer. Other conditions may cause the same symptoms. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
  • A change in bowel habits
  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in the stool
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • Frequent gas pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Feeling very tired
  • Vomiting