March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Did you know that approximately 145,000 people are diagnosed with colorectal each year?\nFortunately, according to the American Cancer Society, the death rate from colon cancer has decreased over the last 20 years. This is in part due to early detection from cancer screenings. Even so, how do you know if you are at risk for colon cancer, and when you should get a cancer screening?\nFind more information on colon cancer screenings available at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.\nColorectal Cancer Risk Factors\nThere are several risk factors you should be aware of that may increase your chance of developing colorectal cancer.\nAge\nWhen you reach the age of 50, your chances of developing colorectal cancer increase significantly; however, colorectal cancer also develops in young adults.\nFamily and personal history of cancer or polyps\nEven if you have had colorectal cancer removed your chances of developing the disease again is increased. According to the American Cancer Society, about one in five people with colorectal cancer have a family history of this disease. Your risk is increased if the family member is a parent, sibling, or child.\nDiet\nTo lower your risk of developing colorectal cancer, you should consume high fiber foods, and avoid eating a lot of red and processed meats. You should also incorporate whole grains, fruits, and vegetables into your diet.\nAlcohol use\nBecause those who drink alcohol frequently and heavily have lower levels of folic acid, colorectal cancer has been linked to heavy alcohol use.\nSmoking\nA common misconception is that smoking may just cause lung cancer. However, smoking is a contributor to the development of other cancers, including colon and rectal.\nObesity\nBeing overweight increases your risk of developing and dying from colorectal cancer in both genders.\nSedentary lifestyle\nIt is important to be physically active for many reasons, but increasing your activity can help lower your risk.\nHistory of ulcerative colitis\nUlcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease fall under inflammatory bowel disease. This is when the colon is inflamed for a long period of time. Dysplasia, (abnormal-looking cells in the lining of the colon or rectum), which is often developed in people with IBD, can develop into cancer.\nCertain hereditary conditions\nCertain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome), are linked to colorectal cancers.\nAs always you should talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and what cancer screenings, if any, are right for you.\nFor more information on colorectal cancer and screenings tests, check out our colorectal cancer infographic.