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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month 

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the United States.   According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 1 in 23 men and 1 in 24 women will develop this cancer at some point in their lives.   In addition to sex, age and race/ethnicity also have a large influence on risk.  The majority of Colorectal cancer are in adults ages 50 and older, approximately 12% of cases diagnosed will be in individuals younger than age 50, the equivalent of 49 new cases per day.

Estimated new cases in 2023 is 153,020      (Male – 81,860 / Female – 71,160)

Estimated deaths in 2023 is 52,550     (Male – 28,470 / Female – 24,080)

Early Colorectal cancer often has no symptoms, which is one of the reasons screening is so important.   The survivor rate is 64% at 5 years following diagnosis and 58% at 10 years.   The most important predictor of survival is stage at diagnosis.   Factors associated with survival in addition to stage include age at diagnosis, the presence of other illnesses, and other tumor and patient characteristics, such as race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

In the United States, more than 55% of all Colorectal cancers are attributable to lifestyle factors, including an unhealthy diet, insufficient physical activity, high alcohol consumption, and smoking.   These behaviors are traditionally associated with high-income countries, where Colorectal cancer rates are highest.    Studies show that people with healthy lifestyle behaviors have a 27% to 52% lower risk of Colorectal cancer compared to those without these behaviors.   Factors that increase risk are related to heredity and medical history, including a personal or family history of Colorectal cancer or adenomas (precancerous polyps) and a history of long-term chronic inflammatory bowel disease.   People at increased risk because of a medical or family history should begin screening before age 45.   Up to 30% of patients have a family history of the disease, making this one of the most important and actionable risk factors.   People with a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or child) who has been diagnosed with Colorectal cancer have 2 to 4 times the risk of developing the disease compared to people without this family history.

The 2018 American Cancer Society screening guideline recommends that adults ages 45 years and older undergo regular screening.   The age to initiate Colorectal cancer screening was lowered from 50 to 45 years because incidence rates are increasing in the younger population, and studies demonstrated that the balance of benefit to harm was more favorable for beginning screening at age 45 than 50.     Follow-up screening is generally updated every 5 to 10 years.    Everyone should have a conversation with their health care provider about Colorectal cancer screening that includes information about family cancer history well before the age of 45.   To learn more, visit

There are several recommended methods for Colorectal cancer screening, including both visual examinations, which are performed at a health care facility, and high-sensitivity stool-based tests, which are collected from home.   Colonoscopy is the most commonly used Colorectal cancer screening test in the US.   This is performed by a gastroenterologist and allows for a direct visual examination of the entire colon and rectum.

The American Cancer Society Cancer Programs encourages accredited programs to promote colorectal cancer awareness and the importance of screening during the month of March.

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Colorectal cancer screening is recommended for everyone beginning at age 45. And when more people get screened, that means fewer new cases and deaths. Visit for guidance.


About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society is a leading cancer-fighting organization with a vision to end cancer as we know it, for everyone. We are improving the lives of people with cancer and their families as the only organization combating cancer through advocacy, research, and patient support, to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to prevent, detect, treat, and survive cancer.

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