Colorectal Cancer: Facts and Myths


What are the colorectal cancer risk factors, and what can you do to prevent them? As with many other cancers, there are elements of developing colorectal cancer that are still unknown, and there are yet other factors that are outside your control.

That said, you can take action to lower your risk, and it all starts with being informed.

What Is Colorectal Cancer?

Colorectal cancer refers to cancer that starts in the rectum or the colon. Depending on where it is, it might also be called colon cancer or rectal cancer. Most begin as a polyp (abnormal growth) in the inner lining of the colon or rectum that eventually changes into cancer.

There are different types of polyps that may develop in the colon or rectum. Hyperplastic and inflammatory polyps are more common and typically don't turn into cancer. Adenomas, on the other hand, are often precancerous; the majority (95 percent) of colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas.

Polyps that meet one or more of the following risk factors have a greater risk of containing cancer:

  • Being larger than one centimeter.
  • Having abnormal-looking cells.
  • Being seen with one or more other polyps.

If a polyp is cancerous, that cancer may eventually grow into the wall of the colon or rectum. The cancer's stage depends on how deeply it's grown into the wall and whether or not it's spread.

There are risk factors you can’t change and risk factors that you can.

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The information provided by Dignity Health and Dignity Health Arizona is for general informational purposes only. All information is provided in good fair and we make no representation or warranty of any kind, express or implied.