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Colorectal Cancer Awareness

Photo of a man and a woman

Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, about 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it. But this disease is highly preventable, by getting screened beginning at age 50.

What You Can Do

  • If you’re aged 50 to 75, get screened for colorectal cancer regularly. Screening tests help prevent colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so they can be removed. Screening also finds this cancer early, when treatment can be most effective.
  • Be physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Don’t drink too much alcohol.
  • Don’t smoke.

Fast Facts

  • Risk increases with age. More than 90% of colorectal cancers occur in people aged 50 and older.
  • Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially at first. You could have polyps or colorectal cancer and not know it. That is why having a screening test is so important. If you have symptoms, they may include—
    • Blood in or on the stool (bowel movement).
    • Stomach pain, aches, or cramps that do not go away.
    • Losing weight and you don’t know why.
    These symptoms may be caused by something other than cancer. If you have any of them, see your doctor.
  • Some people are at a higher risk than others for developing colorectal cancer. If you think you may be at high risk, talk to your doctor about when and how often to get tested.
  • There are several screening test options. Talk with your doctor about which is right for you.
    • Colonoscopy (every 10 years).
    • High-sensitivity fecal occult blood test (FOBT), stool test, or fecal immunochemical test (FIT) (every year).
    • Sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years, with FOBT every three years).

Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign

CDC’s Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign offers resources for patients and health professionals, including print materials (fact sheets, brochures, and posters) and television and radio public service announcements.

Academy Award® winner Meryl Streep is just one of the many celebrities who have joined Screen for Life, appearing in public service announcements to urge men and women to get screened beginning at age 50.

Featured Resources

Screen for Life Basic Facts on Screening fact sheet

Our Screen for Life Basic Facts on Screening fact sheet [PDF-321KB] explains in simple terms how screening tests can save your life.

Photo of Meryl Streep

In this TV public service announcement, actress Meryl Streep urges adults who are 50 or older to get screened for colorectal cancer.

Screening for Colorectal Cancer: Optimizing Quality

These continuing education courses provide guidance and tools for clinicians on the optimal ways to implement screening for colorectal cancer.

No Excuses poster

Our “No Excuses” poster [PDF-7.7MB] responds to four people who think they don’t need colorectal cancer screening.

Vital Signs logo

The “Have You Been Tested for Colorectal Cancer?” podcast explains that you can choose from three screening tests.

Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives brochure

Our Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives brochure [PDF-2.6MB] provides screening information in a full-color, 12-page booklet.

Photo of Doctor Djenaba Joseph in Medscape Expert Commentary video

This Medscape video explains how doctors can increase colorectal cancer screening rates.

Screening for Colorectal cancer: it's the right choice infographic

Our “Screening for Colorectal Cancer: It’s the Right Choice” infographic lists three effective colorectal cancer screening tests and how often each one should be done.

Article about colorectal cancer

This formatted, ready-to-print article about colorectal cancer [PDF-237KB] is free to use in any publication.