Blog Post

Understanding Your Risk for Colon Cancer

The World Health Organization states that colorectal cancer is among the top three most prevalent forms of cancer worldwide, accounting for 10% of all cancer diagnoses. It's also the second most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world.

However, colorectal cancer is treatable when you find it early and through regular screenings, especially as you get older. Your risk factors can help you determine when you should start those screenings. You can also make lifestyle changes to lessen your chances of colon cancer.

The team at Gateway Gastroenterology is expert at colon cancer screenings, treatments, and many other issues that affect the gastrointestinal system. Our six specialists provide you with the necessary information to keep yourself healthy and avoid colorectal cancer.

The facts of colon cancer

Colorectal cancer is a form of cancer that affects the large intestine and rectum. It typically develops later in life.

Most people with colorectal cancer don't know it early on because symptoms usually don't show up until it's progressed. Some of the common symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Bowel habit changes
  • Rectal bleeding or blood in the stool
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Abdominal pain or bloating
  • Lack of energy or feelings of fatigue
  • Iron deficiency anemia

Routine colon cancer screenings are necessary to look for and find early signs of cancer development. So are routine checkups and knowing the signs of colon cancer.

Am I at risk?

Knowing your risk factors for colon cancer can save your life. The symptoms of colon cancer don't always show up until late in the disease, making it difficult to treat.

You can do something about some, but not all, of the risk factors that could increase your risk for colon cancer. Some of the things you can control include:


Being overweight or obese contributes to colon cancer. Taking the steps to eat healthy and lose weight can decrease the risk of colorectal issues.


Eating a diet high in processed meats and fats and low in fiber contributes to problems in the GI tract, including colorectal cancer. Adding healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and fresh meats significantly decreases cancer risk.


Smoking isn't suitable for your body in any way. It is linked to many forms of cancer, including colorectal. Quitting smoking is one of the best changes you can make to decrease the risk of colon cancer.


Heavy alcohol use is a significant risk factor in colorectal cancer, but even light to moderate alcohol intake increases your risk. If you do drink alcohol and are at risk for cancer, limit your drinking to one per day for women and two per day for men.

Some risk factors you can’t do anything about, including: 


Your risk for colon cancer significantly increases as you age, with most cases occurring after the age of 50. However, anyone at any age can develop colon cancer.

Family history

A family history of colorectal cancer significantly increases the risk that you'll develop it at some point in your life. Some genetic issues that run in families can also increase the chances of colon cancer.

Inflammatory bowel disease

Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are inflammatory bowel conditions that put you at a higher risk for colorectal cancer. Even with treatment, IBD may lead to colon cancer.

History of polyps

Having a personal history of rectal polyps or adenomas– non-cancerous tumors – also makes it more likely that you'll develop colorectal cancer.

Lowering the risk of colon cancer

The best thing you can do to lower your risk for colon cancer is to get regular screenings, especially when you have certain risk factors. Seeing our team regularly for screenings, especially after age 50, is essential to finding the disease early on.

Screening isn't the only step you can take, though – making lifestyle changes to decrease the risk of colon cancer is also necessary. Tips to reduce your risk of developing colon cancer include:

  • Eating a healthy diet full of whole foods
  • Quitting smoking 
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Staying active 
  • Avoiding environmental risk factors

Unfortunately, a family history may trump lifestyle changes you make, and you may still develop colon cancer. If you're at high risk and notice any symptoms, it's crucial to seek treatment as early as possible to avoid complications and get treatment.

To get screened for colorectal cancer, call one of our offices in Chesterfield, St. Louis, and Ballwin, Missouri, today. You can also request a consultation on our website.