A risk factor is any factor that is associated with increasing someone’s chances of developing a certain condition, such as cancer. Some risk factors are modifiable, such as lifestyle or environmental risk factors, and others cannot be modified, such as inherited factors or whether someone in the family has had cancer.
Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will develop cancer. Many people have at least one risk factor but will never develop cancer, while others with cancer may have had no known risk factors. Even if a person with cancer has a risk factor, it is usually hard to know how much that risk factor contributed to the development of their disease.
Factors that are associated with a higher risk of developing bowel cancer include:
- increasing age
- personal history of bowel cancer or polyps
- family history of bowel cancer, adenoma or gynaecological cancer
- personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
- high alcohol consumption
- eating lots of foods that are high in fat
- obesity and physical inactivity
Find out more:
- Lifestyle and risk reduction
- Position Statement on Lifestyle risk factors and the primary prevention of cancer
- Australian Cancer Network Colorectal Cancer Guidelines Revision Committee (2005). Guidelines for the prevention, early detection and management of colorectal cancer. Sydney: The Cancer Council Australia and Australian Cancer Network.
- National Cancer Institute (2014). Colon cancer treatment (PDQ®) http://cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/colon/Patient (accessed 14 July 2014).