Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Colorectal Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Colorectal Cancer - What Increases Your Risk

A risk factor for colorectal cancer is something that increases your chance of getting this cancer. Having one or more of these risk factors can make it more likely that you will get colorectal cancer. But it doesn't mean that you will definitely get it. And many people who get colorectal cancer don't have any of these risk factors.

Risks you can't change

Your age

Everyone who is older than 50 has a risk of getting colorectal cancer. And the older you are, the greater the risk. Most cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed in people older than 50.

Your race and ethnicity

African Americans are at greater risk of getting colorectal cancer (and dying from it) than non-Hispanic whites. And non-Hispanic white people have a higher risk than other major racial or ethnic groups, such as Hispanics, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.2

Ashkenazi Jews (Jewish people whose ancestors came from Eastern Europe) who have inherited certain genes are also at a higher risk for getting colorectal cancer.3

Your family's medical history

You are more likely to get colorectal cancer if one of your parents, brothers, sisters, or children has had the disease. This is considered a strong family history. Your risk depends on how old your family member was when he or she was diagnosed and on how many members of your family have had the disease.

You have a very strong family history if all of the following are true:

  • You have at least three relatives who have had colon cancer, endometrial cancer, or another related cancer, and at least one of the relatives is a parent, brother, or sister. Related cancers include ovarian cancer, stomach cancer, liver cancer, and cancer of the small bowel, among others.
  • Those relatives are spread over two generations in a row (for example, a grandparent and a parent).
  • One of those relatives had cancer before age 50.

Some common gene changes increase the chance of colorectal cancer. These changes are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and Lynch syndrome, also called hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC). Many people with these changed genes will get colorectal cancer if they aren't carefully watched. Genetic testing can tell you if you carry a changed, or mutated, gene that can cause FAP or HNPCC.

    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    The right diagnosis is the most important factor.
    man with a doctor
    Our health check will steer you in the right direction.
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    bladder cancer x-ray
    Do you know the warning signs?
    Colon vs Rectal Cancer
    New Colorectal Treatments
    can lack of sleep affect your immune system
    Cancer Facts Quiz
    Virtual Colonoscopy
    Picture of the Colon
    Vitamin D