Small Bowel Cancer: Risk Factors

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 04/2022

ON THIS PAGE: You will find out more about the factors that increase the chance of developing small bowel cancer. Use the menu to see other pages.

A risk factor is anything that increases a person’s chance of developing cancer. Although risk factors often influence the development of cancer, most do not directly cause cancer. Some people with several risk factors never develop cancer, while others with no known risk factors do. Knowing your risk factors and talking about them with your doctor can help you make more informed lifestyle and health care choices.

The following factors may raise a person’s risk of small bowel adenocarcinoma:

  • Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. People with Crohn’s disease have a higher risk of both colorectal and small bowel adenocarcinomas.

  • Celiac disease. Celiac disease is a digestive disease that interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food in the small bowel. The body’s immune system responds to a protein mixture called gluten—which is found in wheat, rye, barley, oats, and other grain foods—and can damage the lining of the small bowel.

  • Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). FAP is an inherited condition characterized by hundreds or thousands of colon polyps, which are small growths. The polyps are usually benign (noncancerous), but there is nearly a 100% chance that the polyps will develop into cancer if left untreated. Individuals with FAP are also at risk for other types of cancer, including stomach cancer, duodenal cancer, thyroid cancer, pancreatic cancer, and hepatoblastoma, which is liver cancer seen mainly in early childhood. Learn more about FAP.

The next section in this guide is Symptoms and Signs. It explains what changes or medical problems small bowel cancer can cause. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.