Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease—in this case colorectal cancer. Some risk  factors are controllable, such as diet, exercise, weight and alcohol use. It may be challenging, but you may be able to change those risk factors. Other risk factors are based on your age or traits you are born with and can’t be changed. By knowing your risk factors, you can make a plan with your doctor for prevention and screening.

Controllable Risk Factors:1,2

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Not being active and not exercising regularly
  • Eating a diet that is high in red meats like beef, pork and lamb or processed meats like hot dogs and some lunch meats
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol use, which is drinking more than 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink per day for women

Non-Controllable Risk Factors:1,2

  • Ethnicity/race: Colorectal cancer risk is highest for African Americans in the U.S. and Jews of Eastern European descent (Ashkenazi Jews) worldwide.
  • Family history of colorectal disorders: Having a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps or having inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) can increase your risk.
  • Inherited syndromes: The most common inherited gene mutations linked to colorectal cancer are Lynch syndrome and familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).
  • Age: Colorectal cancer is more common in people over 50, but the rates for younger people are increasing.
  • Type II diabetes: People with Type II diabetes have an increased risk for colorectal cancer.


1. American Cancer Society website. Accessed June 26, 2019.

2. Having one or more of these risk factors does not mean that you will develop colorectal cancer