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Living Well

Colorectal Cancer Risk

Last updated: Mar 14, 2013



Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death
in the United States.


The best way to protect yourself against colorectal cancer
is to be screened.

Colorectal cancer screening is important for everyone, especially if you are age 50 years or older.  But it is especially important if you have risks for colorectal cancer.

Risk factors for colorectal polyps and colorectal cancer include:

  • Being age 50 years or older
  • Personal history of colorectal polyps 
  • Personal history of colorectal cancer
  • Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), including Crohn's disease
    and ulcerative colitis
  • Family history of colorectal cancer
  • Inherited nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome
  • Juvenile polyposis syndrome and Peutz-Jeghers syndrome 
  • Being African American or of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) Jewish descent 
  • Eating a diet high in saturated fat that includes a high percentage of red
    and processed meats as well as meats that are fried, broiled, or grilled at high temperatures
  • Obesity 
  • Having type 2, noninsulin-dependent diabetes
  • Being inactive physically 
  • Smoking 
  • Having 2 or more drinks per day if you're and more than 1 drink per day if you're a women
  • Personal history of cancer of any kind


Ask your doctor about your risk for colorectal cancer.

He or she will tell you what test might be right for you
and how often you should be screened
to protect your health. 


Colorectal cancer can sometimes cause itching, discomfort, and pain that's similar to hemorrhoids. Only colorectal screening can ease your mind. Screening may be easier than you think! Depending on your results, a colorectal surgeon can recommend ways to treat your hemorrhoids or protect your health if you have a more serious condition. 

You should have colorectal cancer screening if you've had 3 or more of these symptoms:

  • Hemorrhoids or hemorrhoid-like itching, discomfort, and pain
  • Anal itching and discomfort that lasts more than a day
  • Blood in your stool, blood on your toilet paper, blood in the toilet bowl, or bleeding after you’ve had a bowel movement
  • Changes in your bowel movements such as constipation that alternates with diarrhea
  • Persistent or frequent lower abdominal pain
  • Discomfort or the urge to move your bowels when there is no stool present