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Does gender influence colorectal cancer risk?


Updated: July 8, 2007

Question: Does gender influence colorectal cancer risk?

You may have heard that men are more likely to get colorectal cancer than women. You may have heard it the other way around, too. Both statements can be true depending on the context.


Research has shown that in general, men are more likely to have colon polyps and colon tumors than women. The older we get, the bigger the gender gap gets. A study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology found that men 69 and older were much more likely to have colorectal polyps and tumors than women in the same age group.

So how can people be right when they say women are more likely than men to get colorectal cancer? Research presented at the 70th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology indicated that female smokers were more likely to get colorectal cancer than male smokers. So, all other things being equal, if a man and a woman smoke, the woman is more likely to get colorectal cancer.

Which gender is more susceptible to colorectal cancer also depends on the location of the tumor. Research published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention found that men tend to get rectal cancer and left-sided colon cancers more often than women, and women tend to get right-sided colon cancer more often than men.

That may be more than you wanted to know about gender and colorectal cancer. But, now that you know both sides, if it ever comes up in conversation you'll be able to agree (or disagree) with whomever you want!

  1. DeCosse, J. and Ngoi, S. "Gender and Colorectal Cancer." European Journal of Cancer Prevention 2.2 (Mar. 1993): 105-115. 28 Aug. 2006 [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=8461861&dopt=Abstract].
  2. McCashland, T. and Brand, R. "Gender Differences in Colorectal Polyps and Tumors." American Journal of Gastroenterology 96.3 (Mar. 2001): 882-886. Blackwell Synergy. 28 Aug. 2006.
  3. Women More Vulnerable to Risk of Colorectal Cancer from Tobacco, Study. Medical News Today. 4 Nov. 2005. 28 Aug. 2006 [http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/medicalnews.php?newsid=32945].

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