Avoiding risk factors and increasing protective factors may help prevent cancer.
Avoiding cancerrisk factors such as smoking, being overweight, and lack of exercise may help prevent certain cancers. 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.
Having a personal history of inflammatory bowel disease increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
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 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:
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.
The use of hormone replacement therapy that includes both estrogen and progesterone has not been shown to lower the risk of rectal cancer.
Most colorectal polyps are adenomas, which may develop into cancer. Removing colorectal polyps that are larger than 1 centimeter (cm) may lower the risk of colorectal cancer. It is not known if removing smaller polyps lowers the risk of colorectal cancer.
The possible harms of polyp removal during colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy include a tear in the wall of the colon and bleeding.