Colorectal cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups, and is most often found in people aged 50 years or older.
Of cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the United States, but it doesn't have to be. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives. Screening can find precancerous polyps—abnormal growths in the colon or rectum—so that they can be removed before turning into cancer. Screening also helps find colorectal cancer at an early stage, when treatment often leads to a cure. About nine out of every 10 people whose colorectal cancers are found early and treated appropriately are still alive five years later.
If you are aged 50 or older, get screened now. If you think you may be at higher than average risk for colorectal cancer, speak with your doctor about getting screened early.
While screening rates have increased in the U.S., not enough people are getting screened for colorectal cancer. In 2014, 65.7% of U.S. adults were up-to-date with colorectal cancer screening; 7% had been screened, but were not up-to-date; and 27.3% had never been screened.
(Data source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vital Signs: Colorectal cancer screening test use—United States, 2012. MMWR 2013;62(44):881–888.)
Know Your Risk
Your risk of getting colorectal cancer increases as you get older. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. Other risk factors include having—
- Inflammatory bowel disease such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- A personal or family history of colorectal cancer or colorectal polyps.
- A genetic syndrome such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) or hereditary non-polyposis colorectal cancer (Lynch syndrome).
Lifestyle factors that may contribute to an increased risk of colorectal cancer include—
- Lack of regular physical activity.
- A diet low in fruit and vegetables.
- A low-fiber and high-fat diet.
- Overweight and obesity.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Tobacco use.
We highly recommend shaking up your family tree and learning your family health history.
What you need to know about colon cancer.
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