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What Causes Rectal Cancer?

Although it is not entirely clear what causes rectal cancer, the condition typically begins as small growths, called polyps, on the lining inside of the rectum. These growths are the result of cells with damaged DNA that divide rapidly within the rectum, as opposed to normal, healthy cells that, upon the completion of their lifespan, die and get flushed from the body.

It is important to note that not all rectal polyps become cancerous, but certain types of polyps may be more likely to develop into cancers than others. Hyperplastic polyps, for example, rarely become cancerous, whereas adenomatous polyps have the greatest potential of developing into rectal cancer.

While not causes of rectal cancer, there are certain risk factors that may increase the likelihood of an individual developing the condition. Those who have a family history of rectal cancer may be at an elevated risk. Also, diet and lifestyle can play a role in increasing and decreasing risk. Eating a lot of processed foods and red meat, for instance, is considered to be a risk factor.

Additionally, rectal cancer is more common in individuals with preexisting conditions, such as:

  • Type II diabetes
  • Lynch syndrome
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Familiar adenomatous polyposis

Patients who are experiencing symptoms that may signify rectal cancer or have already been diagnosed with this disease can turn to Tampa General Hospital for a full range of diagnostic and treatment options. We are committed to providing individualized care and utilizing the latest in diagnostic and treatment technologies and techniques. For these reasons, we were named one of the Best Hospitals in the U.S. in the area of Gastroenterology & GI Surgery by U.S. World & News Report in 2017-18.

To learn more about the causes of rectal cancer and find a Tampa General Hospital, use our Physician Finder  or call 1-800-833-3627.