Colon, or colorectal, cancer is cancer that starts in the large intestine (colon) or the rectum (end of the colon).
Other types of cancer can affect the colon, such as
Colorectal cancer; Cancer - colon; Rectal cancer; Cancer - rectum; Adenocarcinoma - colon; Colon - adenocarcinoma
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, early diagnosis often leads to a complete cure.
Almost all colon cancer starts in glands in the lining of the colon and rectum. When doctors talk about colorectal cancer, this is usually what they are talking about.
There is no single cause of colon cancer. Nearly all colon cancers begin as noncancerous (benign) polyps, which slowly develop into cancer.
You have a higher risk for colon cancer if you:
- Are older than 60
- Are African American of eastern European descent
- Eat a diet high in red or processed meats
- Have cancer elsewhere in the body
- Have inflammatory bowel disease (
Crohn's diseaseor ulcerative colitis)
- Have a family history of colon cancer
- Have a personal history of breast cancer
Certain genetic syndromes also increase the risk of developing colon cancer. Two of the most common are:
- Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
- Hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), also known as Lynch syndrome
What you eat may play a role in your risk of colon cancer. Colon cancer may be associated with a
Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are other risk factors for colorectal cancer.
Review Date: 12/28/2010
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.