As people age, their risk of developing cancers such as colon cancer increases. For this reason, guidelines for cancer screening generally include age recommendations for when such tests should begin for a person of average risk. Most people who have colon cancer are over the age of 50. The average person has about a 6% chance of developing colon cancer. If you have other risk factors for colon or other cancers, you should check with your physician to determine what type of cancer screening you need. Additional risk factors for colon cancer include:

  • A personal history or family history of colon or rectal polyps
  • A personal history or family history of colon or rectal cancer
    • There is increasing evidence that heredity plays a major role in the development of colorectal cancer.
    • About 5% of colon cancers are directly caused by inherited genetic abnormalities.
  • Certain other bowel conditions, including:
    • Chronic Ulcerative Colitis (CUC), an inflammation of part or the entire colon. Around 5% of people with CUC will get colon cancer, and this percentage increases the longer they have the disease.
    • Crohn's Disease. About 2% of people with this will develop colon cancer over time.
    • Diverticulitis and irritable bowel syndrome are not considered risk factors for colon cancer.
  • Breast and genital cancers. Many physicians advise people with genital and breast cancer to get regular screenings for colon cancer, although there is no absolute proof of a link between these cancers.
  • Dietary risks. A high fat / low fiber diet is thought to play a role in development of colon cancer, although it is still under investigation.