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Notice to Readers: National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. This national health observance serves to increase public awareness about the importance of regular testing to decrease the burden of colorectal cancer (i.e., cancer of the colon or rectum) and to encourage persons aged >50 years to reduce their risk for colorectal cancer through regular screening examinations.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States; during 2004, an estimated 56,730 such deaths will occur, and 146,940 new cases will be diagnosed (1). Regular testing beginning at age 50 years is the key to preventing colorectal cancer (2). However, despite recommendations for screening, the majority of persons who are at risk for colorectal cancer are not being screened. In 2000, only 45% of men and 41% of women aged >50 years had had a flexible sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy during the preceding 10 years or had used a home-fecal occult blood test during the preceding 1 year. Screening rates were particularly low among persons who had no health insurance, had no usual source of health care, or had not visited a doctor during the preceding 1 year (3).

To reduce the colorectal cancer death rate, CDC has implemented a broad-based initiative to 1) promote colorectal cancer screening nationwide through the "Screen for Life" campaign; 2) build national and state partnerships that focus on colorectal cancer awareness; 3) support education and training efforts for the public and health professionals; 4) conduct surveillance and research to evaluate screening test prevalence, barriers to screening, and the safety and availability of screening tests; and 5) fund comprehensive cancer-control programs that promote colorectal cancer screening. Additional information about colorectal cancer is available at Information about CDC's "Screen for Life" campaign is available at


  1. American Cancer Society. Cancer facts and figures, 2004. Atlanta, Georgia: American Cancer Society, 2004; publication no. 5008.04.
  2. Pignone M, Rich M, Teutsch SM, Berg AO, Lohr KN. Screening for colorectal cancer in adults at average risk: a summary of the evidence for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Ann Intern Med 2002;137: 132--41.
  3. Swan J, Breen N, Coates RJ, Rimer BK, Lee NC. Progress in cancer screening practices in the United States: results from the National Health Interview Survey. Cancer 2003;97:1528--40.


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