Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign

Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign

CDC’s Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign informs men and women who are 45 years old or older about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer regularly. Screening tests help find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. This prevents colorectal cancer. Screening also can find this cancer early, when treatment works best. But many adults have not been screened as recommended.

Campaign Background

Campaign development is based on an extensive review of communication and behavioral science literature. Since 1999, CDC has conducted more than 225 focus groups nationally to assess knowledge, behaviors, and screening practices related to colorectal cancer, and to test campaign messages and materials with audiences the campaign intends to reach. The focus groups have been segmented by gender, age (45 to 54, 55 to 64, and 65 or older), and ethnicity (mixed ethnicities, African American, and Hispanic). Input is also sought from state health departments on the types of materials that would be most helpful to local efforts. See a list of publications.

Campaign Messages

  • Screening for colorectal cancer saves lives.
  • Colorectal cancer is a leading cause of cancer death in the United States.
  • If you’re 45 or older, see your doctor and get screened for colorectal cancer.
  • There are several screening test options. Talk to your doctor about which is right for you.
  • Screening helps prevent colorectal cancer by finding precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
  • Screening helps find colorectal cancer early, when treatment can be very effective.
  • Don’t wait for symptoms to be checked. Precancerous polyps and colorectal cancer don’t always cause symptoms, especially early on.
  • You need to get screened even if you have no family history. Most colorectal cancers occur in people with no family history of the disease.


In 2005, Screen for Life began a partnership with the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, cofounded by Katie Couric, to create public service announcements with celebrities. Some have been affected by colorectal cancer personally. Screen for Life is also proud to partner with 50 state health departments, two tribal organizations, the District of Columbia, and CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program award recipients. These partners use campaign messages and materials at the community level to increase awareness about colorectal cancer.

Historical Highlights

Are You The Picture of Health?

In 2005, Screen for Life and the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance, co-founded by Katie Couric, developed “Picture of Health” PSAs.

Photo of actor Jimmy Smits

In early 2007, actor Jimmy Smits explained how colorectal cancer screening saves lives in English and Spanish PSAs.

Photo of actress actress Diane Keaton

In 2007, actress Diane Keaton talked about her grandmother’s death from colorectal cancer in new PSAs.

Photo of actor and musician Terrence Howard

In 2009, actor and musician Terrence Howard joined Screen for Life and shared how his mother’s death from colon cancer affected his whole family.

Photo of the No Excuses poster displayed in a window at Rockefeller Center in New York City

In 2012, in partnership with EIF/NCCRA, a new PSA titled “No Excuses” was displayed in a window at Rockefeller Center in New York City during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Photo of actress Meryl Streep

In February 2013, Screen for Life distributed new TV and radio PSAs featuring actress Meryl Streep.

Photo of the Screen For Life

In 2015, Screen for Life developed new PSAs featuring long-time campaign partner, Katie Couric, cofounder of the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance.

Screening Helps Prevent Colorectal Cancer Flyer

In 2016, the campaign developed a fresh new design for campaign materials.

Photo of a woman looking at a board with pieces of paper. Each piece have the following text written: FIT, Colonoscopy, gFOBT, Flexible Sigmoidoscopy, and FIT DNA

In 2018, the campaign debuted new animated PSAs to counter common myths about colorectal cancer screening.

PSA Distribution

PSAs are distributed nationally to a broad range of television, radio, and print media outlets. Television PSAs are distributed to about 3,500 national and local broadcast and cable outlets in all 210 U.S. media markets, as well as to national networks, national and regional cable systems, and local cable systems. Radio PSAs are distributed to about 1,500 radio stations that appeal to older adults, African American people, and/or Hispanic people. Print PSAs are sent to about 350 print outlets, including magazines and daily and weekly newspapers. Dioramas are distributed to about 50 major U.S. airports and other out-of-home placement locales including shopping malls, transit systems (such as bus shelters, buses, and trains), office buildings, and retail outlets.

Search Engine Marketing and Digital Advertising

As funding allows, the campaign uses search engine marketing and digital advertising to reach target audiences and to direct them to Screen for Life resources. These efforts have garnered more than 360 million impressions and 2 million clicks to web pages.

Campaign Evaluation

Through August 2020, Screen for Life public service announcements (PSAs) have generated more than $300 million in donated ad value and 21 billion impressions (the number of times they have been seen or heard). To provide ecological measures of screening behaviors over time, CDC monitors colorectal cancer screening rates through the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). Findings from BRFSS and NHIS show that testing among adults has increased in the last decade, but it is still too low.

Research Publications