Colon Cancer Risk Factors

Cancer is abnormal cell development. The abnormal cells spread and infect other cells. This mutation can spread very quickly.

In many cases, the abnormal cells spread beyond control before you even notice any symptoms at all.

Luckily, technological advances are making it possible to detect even the smallest abnormal cells in time to prevent the cancer from taking over your body.

Cancers are named after the affected organ. This means that colon cancer is abnormal cell growth in the colon.

Colon cancer risk factors include:

  • Hereditary genes that pass colon cancer down from generation to generation
  • Age
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Diet and exercise

In most cases, there is not just one identifiable risk factor. Usually several factors combined will result in a person developing cancer.

But the good news is that many people with several colon cancer risk factors never develop cancer at all.

Signs of colon cancer in an MRI scan. Picture used courtesy of a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of TipsTimes and Flickr

Signs of colon cancer in an MRI scan. Picture used courtesy of a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of TipsTimes and Flickr

Hereditary Colon Cancer
Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to prevent the risk of contracting the hereditary colon cancer gene. The more closely you are related to the person diagnosed with colon cancer, the greater the risk that you might develop the disease.

This is not to say that you will, just that your chances are higher. About 5 percent of colon cancer cases are hereditary.

Age
Studies show that in nearly all types of cancer the transition from a normal, healthy cell to an abnormal cell is triggered by genetic changes in tumor suppressors and oncogenes. Since these changes are progressive, it often takes many years for cells to mutate into cancer cells.

The older you get, the more time the cells have to mutate and infect other cells, and this is why age is considered a colon cancer risk factor. More than 90 percent of colon cancer patients are over the age of 50.  

Smoking
Smoking has long been associated with lung cancer, but researchers have discovered a link between tobacco use and colon cancer, as well.

Smokers were found to have high levels of hyperplastic polyps in the colon and rectum. Although most hyperplastic polyps do not develop into cancer, some do. The connection between tobacco use and increased hyperplastic polyps seems to have less to do with how long the patient has been a smoker, but rather how recently he had a cigarette.

Diet and Exercise
An unhealthy diet and lack of exercise have been associated with a variety of diseases, including colon cancer. However, scientists find it very difficult to identify exactly which foods are more likely to contribute to a particular type of cancer. Studies show that excessive alcohol use and diets low in folate are definitely risk factors. While other foods seem to decrease the risk of developing colon cancer.

Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a regular exercise program, will greatly reduce your risk of developing colon cancer. If you don't eat right, and don't get enough exercise, you are more likely to develop colon cancer, or one of several other diseases.

Obesity
Researchers have found there is a direct connection between obesity and an increase in the risk of developing colon cancer. And obese people who do develop colon cancer are more likely to die of the disease than someone of normal weight.

However, studies show the association is more consistent in men than in women. It is believed that this may be due to the protective effects of estrogen. Since obese women tend to have higher levels of estrogen, the negative effects of excess fat are counteracted.

Screening for colon cancer is important if you are suffering symptoms. Picture used courtesy of a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of TipsTimes and Flickr

Screening for colon cancer is important if you are suffering symptoms. Picture used courtesy of a Creative Commons license with the kind permission of TipsTimes and Flickr

Can You Reduce Your Cancer Risks?

Not all cancers can be prevented, but you can greatly reduce colon cancer risk factors by eating right, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and leading a healthy lifestyle.

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