Colorectal cancer

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer death in the US, but it doesn’t have to be. With screening, colorectal cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and is beatable in 90% of cases when detected early.

Colorectal Cancer at a Glance

Colorectal cancer occurs in the colon or rectum. It doesn’t always cause symptoms, especially in early stages. With regular screening, it can often be prevented or found early when it’s small and potentially easier to treat. Overall, colorectal cancer death rates are declining because of increased screening and improvements in treatments. As with many cancers, there are significant disparities in colorectal cancer; Black people have the highest risk of being diagnosed with and dying of this cancer out of all major racial and ethnic groups. Until recently screening was recommended for people starting at age 50, but the number of cases of colorectal cancer in people under 50 has been steadily rising and is expected to almost double by 2030. The United States Preventive Services Task Force now recommends that men and women start getting screened at age 45, however less than half of people in this age group are getting tested. Regular colorectal cancer screening is one of the most powerful strategies for more effective prevention and treatment of colorectal cancer. When caught early, 90% of colorectal cancer cases are beatable when caught early. When it comes to colorectal screening, you have choices. Talk to your medical provider or click below for a community health center that provides colorectal cancer screening, regardless of insurance coverage, to figure out which options are available for you.

Colorectal Screening Guidelines

Routine screening for those at average risk of colorectal cancer should begin at age 45. Be aware that screening is something you do when you are healthy – before any symptoms are present. People at increased risk for the disease may need to start screening even earlier and speak with their doctor about when to start screening. People at increased risk include:

  • Those with a personal history of colorectal cancer and certain types of colorectal polyps
  • A family history of colorectal cancer (defined as having a parent, sibling or child with the disease)
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease
  • An inherited colorectal cancer syndrome, such as Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), Lynch Syndrome, or others
  • A personal history of getting radiation to the abdomen or pelvis

There are several effective screening tests for colorectal cancer available, including tests performed at a medical center, and at-home stool tests:

Tests You Can Take at Home:

  • Fecal immunochemical test (FIT), uses antibodies to detect blood in the stool, every year; OR
  • Multi-target stool DNA test, checks for DNA changes or blood in the stool; every 3 years; OR
  • High sensitivity fecal occult blood test (gFOBT),based on a chemical reaction to detect blood in the stool, every year.

Tests Performed at a Medical Center:

  • Colonoscopy every 10 years; OR
  • CT Colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every 5 years; OR
  • Flexible sigmoidoscopy (FSIG) every 5 years.
We are grateful to our colleagues at the American Cancer Society and the National Association of Community Health Centers for their help with SU2C’s Colorectal Awareness Month activities.

A Message from SU2C Co-Founder Katie Couric

Other Colorectal Cancer
Background Information

  • Risk for the disease is not always tied to family history.
  • There are 1.5 million survivors of colorectal cancer.
  • Recent research indicates colorectal cancer incidence rates are rising in young and middle-aged adults; deaths from colorectal cancer among people younger than age 55 have increased 1% per year from 2008 and 2017.
  • More than half (55%) of colorectal cancers are associated with modifiable risk factors (see below).

General Health Guidance

There are steps you can take to reduce your risk for colorectal cancer. It’s important to maintain a healthy diet that is low in red and processed meats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole-grain fiber. A balance between a healthy diet and lifestyle includes:

  • A diet low in red and processed meats and high in fruits, vegetables and whole-grain fiber.
  • Physical activity to help to maintain a healthy body weight and lower risk for colorectal cancer.
  • Limiting alcohol and tobacco use. If you smoke, quitting should be a top priority, and if you consume alcohol, do so in moderation (one drink a day for women, and no more than two drinks a day for men).

Even if you take all of these steps to reduce your risk of colorectal cancer, you cannot eliminate the risk entirely. That’s why everyone 45 or older should talk to their medical provider, choose a screening test, and get screened routinely.


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