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Colorectal cancer is characterized by the development of cancer cells in the tissue of the colon or rectum. Risk factors include being 50 or older, smoking, and having a family history of colon or rectal cancer. Symptoms include things such as blood in the stool and unexplained weight loss; however, these possible signs may be caused by other conditions. Treatment options include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of treatments.

What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer is a disease in which cancerous cells originate in the tissue of the colon or rectum. Cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer, and cancer that begins in the rectum is called rectal cancer; colorectal cancer is another name for these forms of cancer.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. In recent years, the number of people diagnosed with the disease has stayed about the same, but the number of people who die from it has decreased. Colorectal cancer is found more often in men than in women.

Risk Factors for Colorectal Cancer

Anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include:
  • Being 50 years of age or older  
  • Having a personal history of any of the following:
  • Having a parent, brother, sister, or child with colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Having certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (also known as HNPCC or Lynch syndrome)
  • Certain diets (such as diets that are high in fat and low in fiber)
  • Smoking.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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