Risk Factors And Causes of Colon Cancer

A risk factor is known as a factor that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Risk factors often influence the development of cancer but don’t directly cause it. If you have a few risk factors it is better to speak to your doctor about it so that health and lifestyle changes can be made and prevention of colon cancer can be taken care of.

Picture of a person holding a large intestine

In most cases, colon cancer is considered sporadic, which means that genetic changes occur in a person’s body after they are born. Inherited colon cancers are less common and are seen only in 5% of the cases and they occur when gene mutations or changes are passed down within a family from one generation to the next. The actual cause of colon cancer is unknown, however the following factors may increase the risk of developing colon cancer


Age is an important risk factor, as colon cancer can affect teenagers and young adults too but majority of colon cancer cases occur after the age of 50. For colon cancer, the average age at the time of diagnosis for men is 68 and for for women is 72. Older patients who are diagnosed with colon cancer do face some issues in terms of cancer treatment.

Family history of colon cancer

If a person has a family history of colon cancer, it doubles the risk of developing it. Colon cancer may run in the family with first degree relatives like parents, sister, brother etc. and even with other relatives like grandparents, uncles, nieces, nephews etc. The risk increases furthermore if a first degree relative has been diagnosed at a younger age with colon cancer. If you have known of family members who have had colon cancer, it is best to speak to a genetic counsellor and get genetic testing done as it can determine if a gene mutation is present.

Rare inherited conditions

People in families that have rare inherited conditions are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer. These rare inherited conditions include lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis. Lynch syndrome increases the chance developing colon cancer and other cancers. Familial adenomatous polyposis is a condition that causes a person to develop thousands of polyps in the lining of the colon. People untreated with familial adenomatous polyposis are at an increased risk of developing colon cancer before the age of 40.

Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

People who have inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS) may develop chronic inflammation of the large intestine which can increase the risk of colon cancer.


Adenomas are otherwise also known as adenomatous polyps which are non-cancerous growths that develop in the colon. These growths can be removed during a colonoscopy if they are identified. People who have adenomas are always at a higher risk of developing colon cancer.

Physical inactivity and obesity

People who live an inactive lifestyle are at a higher risk of developing colon cancer. Being inactive means not having proper exercise and this can in turn lead to obesity. People who are obese have weight on the midsection and an increased waistline which puts them at a increased risk of developing colon cancer.


Recent studies show the kind of diet that a person has plays an important role too. Eating a lot of read meat and processed food can put people at a higher risk of developing colon cancer. The recommended diet for people who are at high risk is a low-fat high-fiber diet which has a lot of fruits and vegetables and very little of meat and processed food.

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