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Colorectal Cancer Awareness

Photo: A group of seniors

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 there are 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

Prevent Cervical Cancer infographic

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.

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