Several controllable and non-controllable risk factors are associated with the development of rectal cancer. Controllable risk factors are those that can be changed or controlled through lifestyle modifications. Non-controllable risk factors, on the other hand, cannot be changed. It is not possible to alter the cancer risk associated with non-controllable factors.
Learning about different rectal cancer risk factors is important, as this can help determine whether one is a high-risk or low-risk individual for rectal cancer.
Along with knowing about the factors that contribute to increased rectal cancer risk, it is important to know about different rectal cancer prevention measures that help bring down the risk of this cancer.
A large percentage of rectal cancer cases are caused by controllable risk factors. Managing them through certain lifestyle modifications can help reduce the rectal cancer risk significantly.
Consuming too much red, processed, or charred meat can increase the risk of rectal cancer. Highly processed and charred meats contain high levels of harmful chemicals, namely heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which are carcinogenic and trigger tumor formation by damaging the DNA structure of the cells present in the colon and rectum regions.
Exercise is necessary to keep the colon and rectum healthy. Studies show that not exercising regularly can increase the risk of rectal cancer. A sedentary lifestyle leads to visceral fat accumulation, which in turn can lead to chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalance. If chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances are not managed effectively, they can lead to cancer formation.
Obesity is another important risk factor for rectal cancer. Excess weight can lead to increased levels of insulin and other hormones in the body. It can also lead to chronic inflammation, which leads to cancer formation if left unmanaged.
Smoking is also one of the rectal cancer risk factors. Cigarette smoke contains harmful chemicals or carcinogens that may damage the DNA structure of the cells present in the rectum and lead to tumor formation.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to an increased risk of rectal cancer. When alcohol is broken down in the body, harmful metabolites are formed. These may damage the DNA structure of the cells present in the colon and rectum and lead to cancer.
Those risk factors that cannot be modified by any means are referred to as non-controllable risk factors. The following are the common non-controllable rectal cancer risk factors:
Increasing age is a risk factor for rectal cancer. With age, it is normal for individuals to be exposed to multiple factors that can increase their rectal cancer risk. Also, with age, it is normal for mutations to occur in the cells that line the colon and rectum. Lastly, with increasing age, the immune system’s ability to identify cancer cells and attack them may also be affected.
All these make increasing age a non-controllable risk factor for rectal cancer.
Genetic conditions, like Lynch syndrome and Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), are characterized by the formation of multiple polyps in the colon and rectum, which may turn into tumors. Having a family history of these genetic conditions can increase the risk of rectal cancer.
Those who have been diagnosed with colorectal cancer in the past are also at an increased risk of developing rectal cancer. Previous cancer treatments that are administered to treat cancers in the pelvic region can also increase the risk of developing rectal cancer.
Inflammatory bowel diseases cause inflammation in the colon and rectum, and if this inflammation is left untreated, it can cause damage to cells in the colon and rectum and create a favorable environment for tumor growth.
It is, therefore, important to effectively manage inflammatory bowel diseases and opt for rectal cancer prevention measures like regular screening to bring down the risk of rectal cancer.
Those with a positive family history of colorectal cancer must pay extra attention to their health, as they have a higher risk of developing rectal cancer. In such cases, one can opt for regular screening, which helps in catching rectal cancer in its early stages and receiving timely treatment.
It is possible to modify one's lifestyle to lower the risk of rectal cancer. These rectal cancer prevention measures can help reduce one’s rectal cancer risk significantly.
Having a balanced diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and fiber and low in animal and dairy fat improves gut health, prevents inflammation, and, most importantly, brings down rectal cancer risk.
Exercising regularly helps prevent chronic inflammation and hormonal imbalances, which contribute to increased rectal cancer risk.
Maintaining a healthy weight is another important rectal cancer prevention measure. Maintaining a healthy weight prevents chronic inflammation, insulin resistance, and hormonal imbalance, all of which contribute to an increased risk of developing rectal cancer.
Some studies have reported how HRT may play a role in reducing one’s risk of developing colorectal cancer. However, none of the studies have found a significant link.
Hormone replacement therapy uses estrogen, progesterone, or a combination of these hormones to help women manage menopausal symptoms. It is important to note that HRT has been found to slightly increase the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and uterine cancer. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the benefits of HRT outweigh the risks before opting for this treatment.
Lastly, it is important to note that HRT is not a recommended rectal cancer prevention measure or a treatment option.
To reduce the risk of rectal cancer, it is important to opt for proven or doctor-recommended rectal cancer prevention measures, have healthy food habits, opt for an active lifestyle, maintain a healthy weight, and refrain from tobacco and alcohol consumption. These measures are highly effective in reducing rectal cancer risk.
For those wondering how to prevent rectal cancer, here is something important to know: There is no known way to completely prevent rectal cancer. However, a few lifestyle changes may serve as rectal cancer prevention measures and can bring down one’s risk of developing rectal cancer:
Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important rectal cancer prevention measures. Having a balanced diet and opting for regular exercise can help reduce one’s rectal cancer risk.
By maintaining optimum weight, one can prevent visceral fat accumulation, inflammation, and hormonal imbalance, all of which serve as major rectal cancer risk factors.
Regular exercise can help prevent fat accumulation and, thereby, obesity, which contributes to an increased rectal cancer risk.
Opting for exercise five days a week can help maintain a healthy weight and reduce one’s rectal cancer risk.
Food choices play a pivotal role in reducing the risk of cancer and many other health problems. A diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables and low in processed meat and dairy can help reduce the risk of rectal cancer.
Studies have found that the use of aspirin and certain other NSAIDs may play a role in bringing down one’s rectal cancer risk. However, these medications are associated with certain side effects, and therefore, their role in rectal cancer prevention must be thoroughly discussed with a doctor before their use.