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Having a risk factor, or even many does not mean that you will get the disease. And some people who get the disease may not have any known risk factors.

Research is underway to find out if changes to your lifestyle or diet can reduce your colorectal cancer risk, while other risk factors may be genetic or hereditary.


Almost all colorectal cancers begin as precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum. Such polyps can be present in the colon for years before invasive cancer develops. They may not cause any symptoms. Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented. Screening can also find colorectal cancer early when there is a greater chance that treatment will be most effective and lead to a cure.

Studies have found that certain things may increase a person’s risk of getting colon cancer. 

  • Being age 50 or older.

  • Previously having colon polyps (small non-cancerous growths).

  • A family history of colon cancer.

  • Personal history of colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium or breast cancer.

  • Having inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

  • Hereditary conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome).

  • Eating a high fat, low fiber diet.

  • Being African American and Ashkenazi Jew populations.

  • Being obese, smoking, alcohol intake and an inactive way of life.

Medical experts don’t agree on the role of diet in preventing colorectal cancer, but often recommend a diet low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to reduce the risk of other chronic diseases, such as coronary artery disease and diabetes. This diet also may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.


Also, researchers are examining the role of certain medicines and supplements in preventing colorectal cancer.

Dietary and lifestyle choices may help prevent this dangerous cancer including: 

  • Exercising regularly

  • Reducing alcohol consumption

  • Increasing dietary fiber

  • Stop smoking

  • Reducing red meat

  • Increasing calcium and vitamin D intake

  • Eating more foods with polyphenols (often found in fruits, vegetables, and nuts)


While taking steps to prevent colorectal cancer through lifestyle and dietary changes can make a big difference, the most effective method of prevention for both men and women is to receive appropriate screening.


Regular screening for colorectal cancer beginning at age 50, however, screening may be recommended to begin earlier for patients with a family history of colorectal cancer or other risk factors.

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