What Causes Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer—also known as colon, bowel or rectal cancer—is a cancer located in the colon or the rectum. It is the second most common cancer worldwide, after only lung cancer. American Cancer Society estimates that around 1 in 20 people in the U.S. will develop colon cancer during their lifetime. With these alarming statistics, it’s important to understand not only what this disease is, but how it’s caused. Below, we discuss some probable causes for colorectal cancer.

Scientists and medical professionals aren’t certain why colorectal cancer develops in some people, while it does not in others. Despite the uncertainty, there have been strides made over the year in determining risk factors for colorectal cancer, which may increase a person’s chances of developing the disease.


The older you are, the higher your risk for colorectal cancer. Your colorectal specialist will likely recommend you receive regular screening for colon cancer after the age of 50. This can include but is not limited to, a colonoscopy, blood tests, fecal tests or sigmoidoscopy.


Studies have shown that diet can affect your risk of developing colon cancer. Some diets that increase your risk factor include diets high in animal protein, high in saturated fats, low in fiber, high in calories, high in alcohol consumption.

Personal History

People with a history of other cancers or malignant tumor have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Family History

A family history of colon cancer increases a person’s risk of developing the disease dramatically. Doctors recommend earlier and regular screening for colorectal cancer for those with a family history to enhance the ability for early detection and treatment of the disease.


Studies have shown that long-term smoking is associated with a higher risk for developing colorectal cancer.

Other Conditions

People suffering from other conditions such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome have a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer.

While there is no definitive cause for colorectal cancer, these risk factors can increase your chances of developing the disease. Make healthy changes to your diet and lifestyle habits in addition to educating yourself on family history and planning regular colon cancer screening. Knowing your risk can aid in early detection of the disease before it progresses into cancer or requires the need for colorectal surgery or cancer treatment. Knowledge is power and your health is your most prized super power!