Is Colon Cancer a Risk Only if It Runs in Your Family?

Discover the truth from a colorectal surgeon
colon cancer illustration

If you think you’re only at risk of colorectal cancer if it runs in your family, you’d be wrong.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

About 75% of people who get colon or rectal cancer can’t trace it to genetics. Family history can be an indicator of risk, but lifestyle factors such as diet, exercise, alcohol consumption and use of tobacco products all contribute, too.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022 alone, 106,180 people will be newly diagnosed with colon cancer and 44,850 will learn they have rectal cancer. Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancers rank as the third-most diagnosed cancer in the United States.

The truth is that everyone is at risk of colorectal cancer, says colorectal surgeon I. Emre Gorgun, MD. That’s why regular screenings are recommended beginning at age 45 or even earlier depending on risk factors. All colon cancers arise from benign (noncancerous) polyps. Removing polyps during a colonoscopy can prevent colon cancer from developing and save lives.

Advertising Policy