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There are several risk factors for rectal cancer, many of which are also risk factors for colon cancer and anal cancer. Even though these three cancers are very different in many ways, they are thought to have similar pathways to development. As such, many of the same risk factors correspond with all three of these unique cancers.

People who have histories of noncancerous colorectal conditions tend to have a higher risk of developing colon or rectal cancer. Benign conditions that may increase a person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer include:

  • Benign colorectal polyps
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Type II diabetes
  • Familiar adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease

People who have a family history of rectal cancer may also have an elevated risk of developing it themselves. Similarly, people who have a personal history of rectal, anal or colon cancer need to be mindful of the potential for recurrence or the new development of related cancers.

Other rectal cancer risk factors have to do with a person’s diet and lifestyle. For instance, researchers believe that people who frequently consume red and processed meats may have a higher risk of developing colorectal malignancies. Smokers, people who are medically obese, people who lead sedentary lifestyles and people who drink a high number of alcoholic beverages may also have an elevated risk.

Of course, each person’s risk profile is unique. The insight oncologists currently have into colorectal cancer risk factors is based on studies of past patients, and there is no way to predict whether a specific person will develop rectal cancer in the future. Also, if cancer does develop, there is no way to determine if it is the direct result of a specific risk factor or trigger. With this in mind, risk factor information is best used to identify specific individuals who should participate in more frequent colorectal cancer screenings than the general population. At Moffitt Cancer Center, we can help each patient determine an appropriate screening plan and give them the knowledge they need to be proactive about their own health.

To learn more about rectal cancer risk factors or to schedule an appointment with our expert oncologists, call 1-888-663-3488 or submit a new patient registration form online. A referral is not required to schedule a visit.


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