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Colorectal Cancer Prevention

    Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.

    Avoiding cancer risk factors may help prevent certain cancers. Risk factors include smoking, being overweight, and not getting enough exercise. Increasing protective factors such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising may also help prevent some cancers. Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about how you might lower your risk of cancer.

    The following risk factors increase the risk of colorectal cancer:


    The risk of colorectal cancer increases after age 50. Most cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed after age 50.

    Family history of colorectal cancer

    Having a parent, brother, sister, or child with colorectal cancer doubles a person's risk of colorectal cancer.

    Personal history

    Having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease increases the risk of colorectal cancer.

    Inherited risk

    The risk of colorectal cancer is increased when certain gene changes linked to familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC or Lynch Syndrome) are inherited.


    Drinking 3 or more alcoholic beverages per day increases the risk of colorectal cancer. Drinking alcohol is also linked to the risk of forming large colorectal adenomas (benign tumors).

    Cigarette smoking

    Cigarette smoking is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and death from colorectal cancer.

    Smoking cigarettes is also linked to an increased risk of forming colorectal adenomas. Cigarette smokers who have had surgery to remove colorectal adenomas are at an increased risk for the adenomas to recur (come back).


    Obesity is linked to an increased risk of colorectal cancer and death from colorectal cancer.

    The following protective factors decrease the risk of colorectal cancer:

    Physical activity

    A lifestyle that includes regular physical activity is linked to a decreased risk of colorectal cancer.


    Taking aspirin every day for at least 5 years decreases the risk of colorectal cancer and the risk of death from colorectal cancer.

    The possible harms of aspirin use include a higher than normal risk of bleeding in the stomach, intestines, or brain.

    Hormone replacement therapy

    Studies have shown that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) that includes both estrogen and progesterone lowers the risk of colon cancer in postmenopausal women. HRT with estrogen alone does not lower the risk. However, hormone use increases the risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and blood clots.


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