What is a risk factor?

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing the disease. Nobody knows why some people develop colorectal cancer and others do not. There is no way to predict precisely who will have the disease.

However, extensive population studies have found groups with a higher propensity to develop colorectal cancer, and others apparently more protected from it. By identifying what connected the individuals in each group, scientists were able to uncover risk (and protective) factors for the disease.

Knowledge of these allows us to make better choices to reduce the chance of disease.

However, even if useful, our risk factors are not the whole story. An individual may have several risk factors and not develop colorectal cancer, and another with no risk factor goes to have it.

Major risk factors – such as age or family history – cannot be changed.

However, going to regular screenings improves the chance, if the disease appears, of a cure. Other risk factors, minor ones, such as lifestyle, can be changed to reduce colorectal cancer risk. 

However, although risk factors can influence the development of cancer, none are decisive factors for the disease and should be dealt with a critical eye.

As such, they are not seen as decisive factors for the disease, but more as recommendations for a healthier life, or an alert for the need to keep tighter disease surveillance by doing regular screenings.

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