Colorectal cancer (CRC), also known as bowel cancer, colon cancer, or rectal cancer, is the development of cancer from the colon or rectum (parts of the large intestine). Signs and symptoms may include blood in the stool, a change in bowel movements, weight loss, and fatigue. Most colorectal cancers are due to old age and lifestyle factors, with only a small number of cases due to underlying genetic disorders. Risk factors include diet, obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity. Dietary factors that increase the risk include red meat, processed meat, and alcohol. Another risk factor is inflammatory bowel disease, which includes Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Some of the inherited genetic disorders that can cause colorectal cancer include familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer; however, these represent less than 5% of cases. It typically starts as a benign tumor, often in the form of a polyp, which over time becomes cancerous.
Bowel cancer may be diagnosed by obtaining a sample of the colon during a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. This is then followed by medical imaging to determine whether the disease has spread. Screening is effective for preventing and decreasing deaths from colorectal cancer. Screening, by one of a number of methods, is recommended starting from the age of 50 to 75. During colonoscopy, small polyps may be removed if found. If a large polyp or tumor is found, a biopsy may be performed to check if it is cancerous. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs decrease the risk. Their general use is not recommended for this purpose, however, due to side effects.