Having hemorrhoids is a risk factor for cancers that begin in the colon or rectum. However, there is no evidence that hemorrhoids can cause cancer.

Hemorrhoids, or “piles,” are swollen veins that develop inside the rectum or within the skin surrounding the anus. It may be possible to feel these swollen veins, which could present as lumps. The outlook for people with hemorrhoids tends to be good.

As hemorrhoids can affect the rectum, some people might worry that there is a connection with colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer begins in the cells of the colon or rectum but can spread elsewhere.

This article explores the link between hemorrhoids and cancer. It describes the common symptoms of hemorrhoids, when to seek medical attention, and what diagnosis involves.

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According to a 2021 study, there is a link between the conditions, as hemorrhoids seem to be a risk factor for colorectal cancer.

The study looked at thousands of people’s medical records, spanning 10 years. After analyzing the data, the authors found that having hemorrhoids increased an individual’s likelihood of colorectal cancer by 2.39 times. This effect was independent of age, sex, or overall health.

The study also found that in people who have hemorrhoids, the most common sites of colorectal cancer are the rectum and sigmoid. The rectum connects the colon to the anus. The sigmoid is part of the colon that connects to the rectum.

Scientists do not know what might explain this link. It may be that having hemorrhoids can contribute to the causes of colorectal cancer. Alternatively, some third, unknown factor may increase the likelihood of hemorrhoids and cancer.

Learn more about hemorrhoids.

Colorectal cancer and hemorrhoids can both be asymptomatic. However, these conditions can also cause some similar symptoms.

Hemorrhoid symptoms

According to a 2022 review, symptoms of hemorrhoids include:

  • itching, burning, or pain
  • bleeding, which may present as blood in the stool
  • prolapse
  • mucus discharge
  • swelling
  • problems with perianal hygiene
  • the sensation of sitting on a foreign object
  • a sensation of fullness
  • the urge to defecate
  • diarrhea
  • constipation

Colorectal cancer symptoms

The National Cancer Institute lists the following symptoms of colorectal cancer:

Shared symptoms

Hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer share the following symptoms:

  • blood in the stool
  • diarrhea
  • constipation
  • pain

Learn how to tell the difference between hemorrhoids and cancer.

Anyone with symptoms of hemorrhoids or colorectal cancer should seek medical advice.

Early diagnosis and treatment of hemorrhoids can quickly relieve symptoms, which often disappear with minimal treatment.

Diagnosing and treating colorectal cancer in its early stages could also improve the outlook for people with the condition.

Learn about the outlook for people with colorectal cancer.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), doctors can usually diagnose hemorrhoids with an assessment of medical history and a physical exam. However, diagnosis may sometimes require additional testing. For instance, doctors might need to look inside a person’s rectum using a device such as an anoscope or proctoscope.

Doctors may use several tests to diagnose colorectal cancer. The American Cancer Society lists the following tests:

Imaging tests are also important in determining the extent of someone’s cancer.

Learn more about colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer begins in the cells of the colon or rectum. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins that develop in the rectum or colon. There are some important connections between them.

Research indicates that people with hemorrhoids have a significantly greater risk of colorectal cancer than people without hemorrhoids. This increased risk exists regardless of age, sex, or overall health.

Hemorrhoids and colorectal cancer have some common symptoms. These include blood in the stool, constipation, and diarrhea. People with either condition may also experience pain around the anus or abdomen.

Scientists do not fully understand the link between the conditions. However, there is no direct evidence that hemorrhoids cause cancer.