Causes & Risk Factors

Researchers aren’t exactly clear about what causes rectal cancer. Despite not knowing, researchers have found several factors that might affect a person’s risk of getting the cancer:

  • Age: A majority of people with rectal cancer are older than 50. The rates of the cancer in people younger than 50 have been increasing, but doctors aren't sure why.
  • Family History: Having a blood relative who has been diagnosed with rectal cancer increases a person’s risk of developing the cancer themselves.
  • Personal History: People who have had rectal cancer are more likely to get it a second time
  • Obesity: People who are obese may have a higher risk of rectal cancer compared with people who are not.
  • Race: For reasons not yet determined, Black people have a greater risk of rectal cancer than do people of other races.
  • Drinking Alcohol: Habitual alcohol use raises your risk.
  • Radiation Exposure: If you receive or have received radiation treatments to your abdomen, your risk of rectal cancer is increased.
  • Inflammatory intestinal conditions: Chronic inflammatory diseases of the colon, such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease, can increase your risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Eating processed meat: People who eat a lot of red meat and processed meat have a higher risk of developing rectal cancer.
  • Lifestyle: People who are inactive are more likely to develop rectal cancer.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes have an increased risk of rectal cancer.
  • Smoking: People who smoke may have an increased risk of rectal cancer.
  • Inherited syndromes: Genetic syndromes passed through generations of your family can increase your risk of rectal cancer, including FAP and Lynch syndrome.

When to See a Doctor

If you have any continual signs or symptoms of rectal cancer, make an appointment with your doctor right away. Also, make an appointment if you contain any of the risk factors associated with the cancer.

Our Cancer Services

Depending on the type of cancer and how far it has spread, BASS Cancer Center and the BASS Medical Group offers a wide range of treatment options, including surgery, radiation therapy, and systemic therapies.   

Our state-of-the-art cancer center features a full-service medical oncology clinic, including infusion suite, multiple exam rooms, and a PET/CT scanner. We also provide the most technologically advanced radiation oncology treatment in California. Our cancer experts use an Elekta VersaHD CT-Guided linear accelerator with Visionrt’s AlignRT Surface Guided technology (SGRT) and an MR-Guided Linear Accelerator (ViewRay MRIdian).

The VersaHD and MRIdian augment each platform’s capabilities and give the patient and BASS physician an unprecedented ability to tailor a radiotherapy treatment course best fit for each person’s case. Our AlignRT SGRT platform utilizes innovative optical technology to accurately track a patient’s position before and during treatment without exposing them to any additional radiation (commonly needed by other radiotherapy platforms for maintaining setup). Additionally, SGRT allows some patients the choice to avoid permanent marks on their bodies.