Colorectal cancer is the second-deadliest cancer in the United States, partly because it often goes undiagnosed. Polyps can develop in the colon or rectum and become malignant without presenting any symptoms. Therefore, knowing and addressing your risk factors and undergoing the recommended screenings is crucial.

Colorectal cancer affects both men and women. Even if you have no personal or family history of colon cancer, ask your doctor about colorectal risk factors and when to start screening. With regular screening, colorectal cancer is easily detectable and treatable.

Talk to your primary care doctor about your screening options.


Non-Controllable Risk Factors

People over the age of 50 are most at risk.

Colorectal cancer is more common in African Americans and Jews of Eastern European (Ashkenazi) descent. People of these ethnicities should be screened by age 45.

Personal History
Colorectal cancer is more common in patients who have already been diagnosed with colorectal cancer, polyps, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis or long-term inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

Family History
The likelihood of developing colorectal cancer is much higher in people with a family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps. Discuss screening with your doctor. You may require earlier and/or more frequent screening.

Lynch Syndrome
Lynch syndrome is a genetic condition that increases the risk of cancers of the digestive tract, gynecologic tract, and other organs. People who have Lynch syndrome have a significantly increased risk of developing colorectal cancer.

Other Inherited Syndromes
Rare genetic conditions like familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) also increase a person's risk of colorectal cancer.

Controllable Risk Factors

Overweight people are more likely to develop colorectal cancer.

Diets high in red meats and processed meats lead to an increased risk of colorectal cancer, while diets high in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of colorectal cancer.

Physical Inactivity
Exercise might help lower the risk for colorectal cancer.

Smokers are more likely to develop colorectal cancer than non-smokers.

Excessive Alcohol Use
Men who have more than two alcoholic drinks per day and women who have more than one alcoholic drink per day increase their chances of developing colorectal cancer.

If you are 50 or older, or meet other risk factors, Renown Health recommends a formal colorectal cancer risk assessment.



The most common form of colorectal cancer screening is the colonoscopy. During this test, the doctor will insert a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end into the rectum and slowly move the camera up to the beginning of the colon. This enables the doctor to examine the length of the colon in its entirety, map out any concerning or problem areas and remove polyps.

In order for your doctor to see the lining of the colon and correctly identify polyps or other lesions, the colon must be completely empty. Your doctor will give you instructions on how to prepare for the procedure, which usually include taking a laxative, drinking only clear liquids, and fasting for at least 24 hours before the procedure. Most people consider the preparation more unpleasant than the exam itself, but it’s imperative that you follow the instructions, otherwise the colonoscopy might need to be rescheduled.

Prior to performing the exam, your doctor will give you a sedative. Most people fall asleep and don’t remember the procedure when they wake up. Afterward, your doctor will meet with you to discuss his or her findings.

For most people, colonoscopies are recommended every 10 years starting at age 50. Depending on the results, your doctor may schedule more frequent screenings. If you are 76 or older, talk with your doctor. He or she will take into account your overall health and prior screening history before scheduling a colonoscopy.

FIT Test

The FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test) Test is a simple, at-home colorectal cancer screening kit that you can complete in the privacy of your own home. FIT Tests are pain-free, require no dietary or medication restrictions and can be completed in about 10 minutes. Completion involves collecting a stool sample and placing it on a test card or tube and returning it to the doctor’s office. FIT Tests may be covered by your insurance. Please talk with your insurance provider to see if the FIT Test is covered.