Colon Cancer – Who is at Risk?

Prevention & Awareness

February 29, 2020

Besides skin cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer according to the American Cancer Society. There will be an estimated 104,610 new cases of colon cancer in the United States this year. Who is at risk for colon cancer?


Lifestyle Risk Factors for Colon Cancer: 


Obesity – Being overweight, and having a large waistline significantly increases the chance for developing colon cancer and rectal cancer in both men and women. In fact, according to the National Cancer Institute, obese individuals are about 30 times more likely to develop colorectal cancer than people who are at a healthy weight.


Sedentary Lifestyle – Physically active men and women have a 19% decrease in colorectal cancer incidence than sedentary men and women, according to the National Cancer Institute. Increasing your physical activity can help lower your risk.


Tobacco & Alcohol Use – Moderate to heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to several types of cancer, including colon cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends limiting alcohol consumption. Men should consume no more than two drinks per day, and women should consume no more than one drink per day./


Cigarette smoking also increases risk for colorectal cancer. “Cigarette smoke contains many carcinogens [cancer-causing agents], benzopyrenes being the most well-known,” says Thomas Imperiale, MD, professor of medicine and associate director for research for the Division of Gastroenterology at the Indiana University School of Medicine. “It’s believed that these carcinogens cause damage to the DNA and, over time, the body’s ability to repair that damage decreases.”


Genetic Risk Factors for Colon Cancer:


Family History

Most colorectal cancers are found in people without a family history. However, it is important to note that 1 in 4 cases do have a family history connection – that is, an immediate family member with colon cancer or polyps.


Personal History

If you have a personal history of polyps or have had colon cancer in the past, you are at an increased risk for developing new cancer in the colon or rectum.



As you age, your risk for colon cancer increases. People age 50 and older represent the most at risk age group. However, their cancer incidence is on the decline. More recently, younger ages have seen an increased colon cancer incidence. The median age for colon cancer is 68 in men and 72 in women.


Race and Ethnicity

Researches have not discovered why, but colon and rectal cancer rates are 20% higher among African Americans than any whites.


The good news is that if detected early, the 5-year survival rate for localized colon cancer is 90%. Learn more about early detection of colon cancer and how it can save your life.