A risk factor refers to anything which increases a person’s chance of acquiring a certain ailment. Cancers have their specific risk factors as well and just as increased sunlight may be a risk factor for skin cancer, colon cancer has its own specific risk factors. However risk factors do not necessarily indicate certainty. In many instances, colon cancers may develop without any of the known risk factors.
However, medical research has allowed researchers to highlight a number of risk factors for Colon Cancer. These are:
Age : More than 90% of people diagnosed with Colon cancer are above the age of 50. Therefore age is one of the important indicators in determining the presence of Colon Cancer.
Personal history : Any past incidences of Polyp formation are serious risk factors.
Inflammatory Bowel disease: Any personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is also pertinent since the prolonged periods in which the Colon is inflamed may lead to higher probability of Colon Cancer.
Family history : Colon Cancer, like other forms of Cancer, has a higher incidence in people with family history. The risk is significantly higher when a direct family member (parent or sibling) is affected and more than doubles if more than one family member is affected.
Inherited syndromes : Around 5 % of Colon Cancer patients have inherited genes which make them susceptible to the disease. The two most common inherited syndromes are familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (HPCC).
Racial and ethnic background : Specific races have higher rates of Colon cancer than others. African Americans have the highest rates of Colon cancer in the US while the Ashkenazi Jews have the one of the highest rates in the world.
Diet : Diet also plays an important role in determining the risk factor for Colon Cancer. A diet rich in red meats and processed meats has been shown to increase the risk factor while diet consisting of fruits and vegetables has proven to decrease the risk of Colon Cancer.
Alcohol Use : Heavy use of alcohol is also an increased risk factor. It is recommended that men not have more than 2 drinks a day and women, not more than 1.
Although there are several other risk factors as well, it is important to note that Colon cancer can develop without any of these present so vigilance is the best precaution.