The characteristics and lifestyle factors that increase your risk of rectal cancer are the same as those that increase your risk of colon cancer. They include:
- Older age. The great majority of people diagnosed with colon and rectal cancer are older than 50. Colorectal cancer can occur in younger people, but it occurs much less frequently.
- African-American descent. People of African ancestry born in the United States have a greater risk of colorectal cancer than do people of European ancestry.
- A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps. If you've already had rectal cancer, colon cancer or adenomatous polyps, you have a greater risk of colorectal cancer in the future.
- Inflammatory bowel disease. Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon and rectum, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Inherited syndromes that increase colorectal cancer risk. Genetic syndromes passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of colorectal cancer. These syndromes include FAP and HNPCC.
- Family history of colorectal cancer. You're more likely to develop colorectal cancer if you have a parent, sibling or child with the disease. If more than one family member has colon cancer or rectal cancer, your risk is even greater.
- Dietary factors. Colorectal cancer may be associated with a diet low in vegetables and high in red meat, particularly when the meat is charred or well-done.
- A sedentary lifestyle. If you're inactive, you're more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Getting regular physical activity may reduce your risk of colon cancer.
- Diabetes. People with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance may have an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
- Obesity. People who are obese have an increased risk of colorectal cancer and an increased risk of dying of colon or rectal cancer when compared with people considered normal weight.
- Smoking. People who smoke may have an increased risk of colon cancer.
- Alcohol. Regularly drinking more than three alcoholic beverages a week may increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
- Radiation therapy for previous cancer. Radiation therapy directed at the abdomen to treat previous cancers may increase the risk of colorectal cancer.
RISK FACTORS FOR RECTAL CANCER ARE:
- Age: diagnosis usually occurs after age 50
- Race: African-Americans are at higher risk than people of European descent
- Personal or family history of colorectal cancer
- Previous radiation treatment to the abdomen
Other conditions that may increase risk include:
- Ovarian cancer
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Type 2 diabetes that’s not well managed
Some lifestyle factors that may play a role in colorectal cancer are:
- Diet with too few vegetables and too much red meat, particularly well-done meat
- Lack of exercise
- Consuming more than three alcoholic drinks a week
The treatment for rectal cancer will depend upon the stage of the disease as well as other factors such as the particular location of the tumor(s) and your general health.
In the early stages of rectal cancer, surgery may be the only treatment needed. There are several surgical methods that are used to remove cancerous rectal tissue.
The type of surgery that's chosen depends on the patient's general health, the stage of the rectal cancer, and the location of the tumor(s). For those who are not good candidates for surgery, radiation therapy may be an option, but it is usually not as effective.
This is also a common treatment for rectal cancer. The organs in the body are made up of cells that divide and multiply as the body needs them. When these cells continue to multiply unnecessarily, the result is a mass or growth, which is also called a tumor.
Chemotherapy drugs work by eliminating these rapidly multiplying renegade cells. Chemotherapy for rectal cancer may be prescribed either before or after surgery and may also be given in conjunction with radiation therapy.
Another treatment option for rectal cancer, this type of therapy uses certain types of high-energy radiation beams to shrink tumors and eliminate cancer cells. Radiation therapy works by damaging a cancer cell's DNA, leading to cellular death.
In cases of rectal cancer, radiation therapy may be given prior to surgery to help shrink large tumors. It may also be given in conjunction with chemotherapy.
Regular colon cancer screening is key to preventing rectal cancer. Screening can identify precancerous growths before they potentially progress into cancer. Keep in mind that it takes years for rectal cancer to develop, so routine screening can detect these changes long before they turn cancerous.
Avoiding risk factors for colon cancer can also reduce your chances of developing the disease. Eating a balanced diet is important as well as maintaining a healthy weight and quitting smoking.