Are Hemorrhoids and Colon Cancer Related? 

Written by: Rob Levy
Medically Reviewed By: James M. Cleary, MD, PhD

Although hemorrhoids and colon cancer share certain symptoms, such as rectal bleeding, they are very different conditions. People who experience symptoms of either should get evaluated by a physician: while hemorrhoids are far more common than colon cancer, an exam is necessary to determine which one, if either, a patient has and how it should be treated. 

Hemorrhoids do not cause or increase one’s risk of colon cancer, research shows. 

Symptoms of hemorrhoids 

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the area of the rectum and anus. They can arise inside the rectum or in the skin near the anus. They usually aren’t dangerous and in some cases go away after a few days. 

Hemorrhoids are quite common, affecting as many as three out of four adults from time to time. A variety of over-the-counter treatments to relieve hemorrhoids are available and generally relieve symptoms quite well. 

The cause of hemorrhoids isn’t always clear, but they generally occur when there’s pressure in the area, as a result of straining during a bowel movement, for example. They’re more likely to occur during pregnancy or to individuals who sit for long periods of time, have chronic constipation or diarrhea, or lift heavy objects. 

The most common symptoms of hemorrhoids are: 

  • Itching or irritation in the anal area 
  • Bright red blood in the stool 
  • Pain or discomfort, especially during bowel movements 
  • Painful or sensitive lumps near the anus 

Colon cancer symptoms 

Colon cancer is a malignancy that occurs in the large intestine; when it arises in the lower six inches of the colon, it is known as rectal cancer. Colon and rectal cancers are the fourth most common cancers diagnosed in the United States, and incidence rates have been rising among people under age 45, for reasons that remain unclear. 

In its early stages, colon and rectal cancer may produce no symptoms. The symptoms that are associated with the disease can also be caused by other conditions, so it’s important to go for an exam when symptoms arise. The most common symptoms of colon and rectal cancer include: 

  • Blood in the stool 
  • A change in bowel habits 
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or feeling that the bowel doesn’t completely empty 
  • Stools that are narrower than usual 
  • Frequent gain pains, bloating, fullness, or cramps 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Extreme fatigue 
  • Vomiting 
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count) 

About the Medical Reviewer

James M. Cleary, MD, PhDMy career is focused on phase 1 and proof-of-mechanism clinical trials that are testing new targeted therapies and novel therapeutic strategies. While I conduct trials appropriate for a broad range of solid tumors, I am particularly interested in new drug development for gastrointestinal malignancies. Currently, I am developing several protocols appropriate for specific molecularly defined patient cohorts, including those whose tumors are dependent on EGFR, mutant K-Ras and mutant B-Raf, respectively. I also interact with Dana-Farber translational researchers to understand and develop predictors of sensitivity and resistance to targeted agents that can be incorporated into patient selection for trials.

2 thoughts on “Are Hemorrhoids and Colon Cancer Related? ”

  1. I think you should be addressing the similarities between hemorrhoids and anal cancer as symptoms are extremely close and oftentimes physicians misdiagnosis anal cancer for hemorrhoids. This needs to be addressed more and brought to light with the medical community.

    • Hi Heather,

      We received the following response from Dana-Farber’s James Cleary, MD, PhD:

      “Thank you very much for this comment. You are exactly correct. Similar to rectal cancer, anal cancer can also cause rectal bleeding. The diagnosis of anal cancer can be missed if rectal bleeding is assumed to be coming from hemorrhoids. For this reason, patients with rectal bleeding should undergo a colonoscopy. A colonoscopy is able to diagnose both anal cancer and rectal cancer.”

      Wishing you all the best,

Comments are closed.