Could My Lifestyle Put Me at Risk for Rectal Cancer?

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 44,000 new cases of rectal cancer will be diagnosed in 2019, which means this type of cancer isn’t terribly common, but nor can it be considered rare. As with most cancers, researchers have yet to identify a single cause of rectal cancer, but they have been able to pinpoint several links between a person’s medical history, family history, and lifestyle that can place them more at risk.

At our practice in Pasadena, California, Dr. Gabriel Akopian is a board-certified surgeon who specializes in colorectal issues, including rectal cancer. While we offer the latest treatments for rectal cancer, we believe that prevention is the best way to handle any cancer. To that end, we’ve pulled together a brief look at how some of your lifestyle factors may place you more at risk for developing this potentially dangerous disease.

Out of your control

There are plenty of factors that increase your risk of developing rectal cancer that are out of your control, such as:

The reason why we bring up these risk factors is that if you fall into one or more of these categories, it’s especially important that you do everything in your power to avoid certain lifestyle changes that may be adding to your already increased risk.

So let’s review some of these lifestyle factors.

Carrying extra weight

If you’re overweight or obese, your risk of rectal cancer, as well as many other diseases, increases. While we’re not exactly sure why, if you’re carrying much of the excess weight around your abdomen (belly fat), this places you more at risk of developing colorectal cancers. 

Alcohol consumption

If you drink more than three alcoholic beverages a day, you may be placing yourself at a higher risk of developing rectal cancer. In addition to the increased risk, moderate to heavy alcohol consumption has been tied to the formation of large colorectal adenomas, which are benign tumors.


Smoking is a habit that seems to be inextricably linked to cancer, including rectal cancer. More specifically, not only are smokers more at risk of developing cancer, they’re also less likely to successfully fight the disease.

Protective factors

While we espouse mitigating the lifestyle factors we note above, there are also a few proactive steps you can take to ward off the disease, including:

While none of these are silver bullets when it comes to protecting you against rectal cancer, they do provide you with further defenses against the disease.

If you’re concerned about your risk for rectal cancer and whether your lifestyle may play a role, please contact us at 626-788-4095 for a consultation.

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