U.S. National Institutes of Health www.cancer.gov
Risk ProfilespacerStep 1spacerStep 2spacerStep 3spacerStep 4spacerStep 5
Colorectal Cancer — Step 2:¬†Which Risk Factors May Apply to You? email this page to a friendemail this page

In this step, you explore how to know if any of the known risk factors for colorectal cancer apply to you. If you need to review the basics, check out What Are Risk Factors? and What Is Risk Exposure?

Find out more:
Current evidence on risk and protective factors for colorectal cancer           My Family Health Portrait

Understanding Colorectal Cancer Risk Tool
Check the risk factors that apply to you to build your own list. Then go to Step 3 to learn what you can do to reduce your risk for factors in your list. After you build your list, you can print it out and take it with you to your doctor.

Colorectal Cancer Risk Factor

How Will I Know?

Does This Risk Factor
Apply to Me?


Risk increases with age. If you are over age 50, you are at greater risk for colorectal cancer. You should begin screening if you have not already done so.

Race or ethnicity

African Americans and Whites have a higher overall risk of getting colorectal cancer than other racial and ethnic groups.

Colorectal polyps

You will be informed if polyps are found during a screening procedure.

Family history of colorectal cancer

Close relatives (parents, brothers, sisters, or children) of a person who had had colorectal cancer are somewhat more likely to develop it themselves. This is especially true if the relative had the cancer at a young age. If you have many close relatives with the disease, your risk is even greater. Check with your family to determine your family medical history. Use My Family Health Portrait in the blue area above to help you.

Genetic alterations

A doctor will identify the type of colorectal cancers that result from genetic alterations. Check with your family members to see if they have been told that they have gene-related colorectal cancer or genetic tendencies. Then follow up with your doctor about next steps you may need to take.

Personal history of colorectal cancer

Your doctor should have given you recommendations for follow-up. Check with your doctor if you are uncertain about what to do.

Inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease)

Having inflammatory bowel disease puts you at higher risk for colorectal cancer. Ask your doctor about the relationship between these conditions and your risk of developing colorectal cancer.


If you eat a diet that is high in fat (especially animal fat), high in alcohol, and low in calcium and folate, you may be at increased risk for colorectal cancer.

Cigarette smoking

If you smoke, you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer.

Sedentary lifestyle

If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, you are at increased risk for colorectal cancer.

Contact Us | Policies | Accessibility | Viewing Files | FOIA

A Service of the National Cancer Institute

National Cancer Institute Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health USA.gov