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Rectal Cancer Risk Factors

Knowing your risk ahead of time can help you take action to stay healthy and minimize the likelihood that you develop rectal cancer.

At MedStar Health, you’ll benefit from genetic counselors who are experts in evaluating your family history and risk for inherited cancers. This allows us to help you proactively take steps to minimize your chances through earlier screening and lifestyle changes.

Related: Emily Kuchinsky, MS, a certified genetic counselor, explains how Lynch Syndrome increases your risk of cancer

Your Risk is Affected by Age, Lifestyle, Background, and Medical History

Risk factors may include:

  • Age: Once you turn 50, you are more likely to develop rectal cancer.
  • Race/Ethnicity: If you are African-American or Jewish with an Eastern European background, you are at an increased risk.
  • Medical history: Certain health conditions raise your risk, including ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, or other types of cancer. And, if your doctor found polyps during a colonoscopy, you are also at an elevated risk.
  • Family history: If you have family members with rectal cancer, you are at a higher risk. Our genetic counselors can help you determine how much you are at risk and take action to reduce your chances of developing rectal cancer.
  • Diet high in fat: Lifestyle choices greatly impact your risk. Studies show that you have a increased risk if you eat a diet high in fatty calories, like red meat. You may be at a higher risk if you don’t eat enough food with fiber, like fruits and vegetables.
  • Not enough exercise: If you aren’t active, you may be more likely to develop rectal cancer.
  • Tobacco and alcohol use: Poor lifestyle choices such as smoking cigarettes and drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk.

Schedule Your Colonoscopy


Living a Healthy Lifestyle Can Minimize Your Risk

If one or more risk factors apply to you, that doesn’t mean that you will get rectal cancer. But, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about ways to minimize your risk. Your doctor may suggest getting screened regularly and making healthy lifestyle choices, including:

  • Eating fruits and vegetables
  • Staying active
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation

It’s important to remember if you don’t have any risk factors, you can still get this disease, so you should be screened every ten years once you turn 45.

Learn more about rectal cancer prevention.

Schedule Your Colonoscopy


Our Locations

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Cancer Institute
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
5601 Loch Raven Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Harbor Hospital
The Cancer Center
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225

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