Genomics and Health
Colorectal Cancer Awareness
Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer cause of death in the United States. This type of cancer (also known as colon cancer) occurs in the colon or in the rectum. A person’s risk of developing colorectal cancer increases as he or she gets older. This cancer occurs most often in people age 50 and above.
Screening for prevention and early detection
Screening tests can help prevent colorectal cancer by finding polyps, abnormal growths in the colon or rectum, so that they can be removed before they become cancerous. Screening also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment works best. For most people, screening for colorectal cancer should begin at age 50 and continue regularly until age 75, according to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF).[PDF 242.08]
Family history is an important risk factor
Most colorectal cancer is caused by the complex interaction of many genes and behavioral risk factors, such as being overweight and physically inactive. In addition, specific gene abnormalities (mutations) are known to contribute to the development of some rare types of hereditary colorectal cancer.* These types of colorectal cancer typically occur at an earlier age than other types that are not considered hereditary.People with a family history of colorectal cancer are at an increased risk of developing this disease. The USPSTF found that for people with first-degree relatives (parent, sibling or child) who developed cancer at a younger age, or people with multiple affected first-degree relatives, starting screening at younger ages may be reasonable. Health care providers can help patients evaluate their family histories to determine which screening tests are best for them.
*Familial adenomatous polyposis and Lynch syndrome (also known as hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer).
Read a brief CDC summary of the EGAPP recommendation statement on genetic testing for Lynch syndrome.
The information on this page was compiled as a collaborative effort by CDC's Office of Public Health Genomics and the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Please direct any specific questions or inquires about colorectal cancer to the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.