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What causes colon cancer?

While the specific cause remains unknown, research suggests colon cancer is most likely due to gene mutations. A primary risk factor for colon cancer includes family history of colorectal cancer, specifically first degree relatives (parent, sibling or child) who have had this diagnosis. Other risk factors include prior colorectal cancer or polyps, increasing age, a diet high in fat and red meat and low in fiber, a sedentary lifestyle, inflammatory bowel disease, and certain hereditary conditions including familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer.

Colon cancer doesn’t happen all of a sudden. The cancer begins as a non-cancerous polyp. Some polyps begin to grow and then, possibly due to a genetic mutation, the polyp develops into cancer. It can take up to 10 to 20 years to go from polyp to cancer. When polyps are discovered during screening and removed, cancer risk is decreased by 90 percent.

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