Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer
by Michelle Badash, MS
A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop colorectal cancer with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your chance of developing colorectal cancer. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Generally, colorectal cancer is found more often in men than in women. Specifically, women have higher rates of colon cancer, while men have higher rates of rectal cancer. Colorectal cancer can develop at any age, but is more likely found in those aged 65 years and older. Risk typically increases starting at age 50.
Other factors that may increase your chance of colorectal cancer include:
Heredity is perhaps the strongest risk factor for developing colorectal cancer. It is estimated that approximately 20% of all cases of colorectal cancer are hereditary. This risk increases if you have a primary relative, such as a parent, sibling, or child who develops colorectal cancer.
Hereditary colon cancer occurs at a younger age. As a result, anyone with a history of colon cancer in a relative should seek screening early. Guidelines recommend a screening at age 40 or 10 years younger than the earliest age at which a relative developed colon cancer, whichever is younger. With inherited forms of colon cancer, the presence of the disease before age 60 in near relatives increases one’s own risk.
The 2 most common forms of inherited colon cancer are:
Colorectal cancer has been strongly associated with lifestyle factors. The following factors may increase your risk of developing colorectal cancer:
The following medical conditions have been shown to increase the risk of developing colorectal cancer:
Race and Ethnicity
African-Americans carry the highest risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer.
Ashkenazi Jews are at an increased risk because of a specific genetic mutation.
Colorectal cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed January 3, 2017.
Colorectal cancer. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T113642/Colorectal-cancer. Updated August 18, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Colorectal cancer. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 2014. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Familial adenomatous polyposis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated February 28, 2014. Accessed January 3, 2017.
General information about colon cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/colon-treatment-pdq. Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
General information about rectal cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/colorectal/patient/rectal-treatment-pdq. Updated June 30, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Lynch syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115317/Lynch-syndrome. Updated August 5, 2016. Accessed January 3, 2017.
Last reviewed December 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Last Updated: 10/2/2019
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.