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Causes & Prevention

What causes colorectal cancer?

The exact cause of most colorectal cancer is unknown, but the known risk factors listed above are the most likely causes. A small percentage of colorectal cancers are caused by inherited gene mutations. People with a family history of colorectal cancer may wish to consider genetic testing. The American Cancer Society suggests that anyone undergoing such tests have access to a doctor or geneticist qualified to explain the significance of these test results.

Prevention of colorectal cancer

Although the exact cause of colorectal cancer is not known, it may be possible to lower your risk of colorectal cancer with the following:

  • Diet, weight, and exercise. It is important to manage the risk factors you can control, such as diet, body weight, and exercise. Eating more fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain foods, and limiting red and processed meats, plus exercising appropriately, even small amounts on a regular basis, can be helpful. Avoiding excess alcohol intake may also lower your risk.
  • Drug therapy. Some studies have shown that low doses of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, and hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women, may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. But these drugs also have their own potentially serious risks, so it is important to discuss this with your health care provider.
  • Screenings. Perhaps most important to the prevention of colorectal cancer is having screening tests at appropriate ages. Screening may find some colorectal polyps that can be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous. Because some colorectal cancers cannot be prevented, finding them early is the best way to improve the chance of successful treatment, and reduce the number of deaths caused by colorectal cancer.

Click here to view the screening guidelines can lower the number of cases of the disease, and can also lower the death rate from colorectal cancer by detecting the disease at an earlier, more treatable stage.