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What is colorectal cancer?

Colorectal cancer occurs when some of the cells that line the colon or rectum become abnormal and grow out of control. The abnormal growing cells create a polyp, which in turn may continue to grow and become cancer. Thanks to colorectal cancer screening, polyps can be found and removed before they turn into cancer. In addition, the earlier a cancer is found, the easier it is to cure.

What are some risk factors for colorectal cancer?

  • Age – People over the age of 50 are at risk for colorectal cancer and should be screened.
  • Polyps – Begin as non-cancerous growths on the inner wall of the colon or the rectum. Over time, polyps can become cancerous.
  • Personal history – Women with a history of ovarian or uterine cancer have increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. People who have Ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease also are at higher risk.
  • Family history – A family history of colorectal cancer, polyps or hereditary polyp syndrome also increases the risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Lifestyle – Alcohol, smoking, lack of exercise and overweight status are additional risk factors.
  • Diabetes – People with diabetes have an increased risk for colorectal cancer.

Frequently asked questions about colon cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the US. Anyone can develop it, even younger people. Here are some answers to the most common questions about colon cancer.

Tips to help lower your risk

There's no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer. But you can make changes in your life that will help you control as many of the risks as you can.