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Research has provided significant insight into what causes colon cancer. For instance, studies show that colon cancer usually originates in small cell clusters known as adenomatous polyps. These polyps are often benign (noncancerous) at first, but can eventually become malignant (cancerous) due to abnormal DNA mutations. Removing these polyps before they undergo cancerous DNA changes can prevent colon cancer from developing.

It’s not quite clear what causes noncancerous cells to mutate into colon cancer, although researchers do know that:

  • Noncancerous cells are programmed to multiply on a specific schedule and die when they have reached the end of their life cycle.
  • DNA regulates the multiplication and destruction processes for healthy cells.
  • If DNA becomes damaged, it can cause formerly healthy cells to continue to divide, even when the cells are no longer needed.
  • Damaged cells can invade and destroy nearby tissues and travel to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system.

Researchers also know that some people have a higher risk of developing cellular DNA changes than others. For instance, people with an inherited genetic syndrome, such as familial adenomatous polyposis, are more prone to cancerous DNA changes. Furthermore, unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as maintaining a sedentary routine and eating a high-fat, low-fiber diet, can – at least partially – contribute to the development of colon cancer.

To gain a better understanding of how colon cancer develops, Moffitt Cancer Center’s research teams are continually investigating the activity of DNA within cancerous and precancerous cells, as well as the growth patterns that these cells exhibit. Recognized for our state-of-the-art research programs and ability to translate laboratory discoveries into immediate benefits for our patients, Moffitt has been named a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute. We are the only cancer center based in Florida to have received this prestigious designation.

Moffitt’s oncologists can provide additional information regarding what causes colon cancer, as well as the role that various risk factors may play in its development. You do not need a referral to make an appointment; call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online.