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Colorectal Cancer Awareness

The American Cancer Society's most recent estimates for the number of colorectal cancer cases in the United States are for 2009:

  • 106,100 new cases of colon cancer
    (52,010 in men and 54,090 in women)
  • 40,870 new cases of rectal cancer
    (23,580 in men and 17,290 in women)

Overall, the lifetime risk for developing colorectal cancer is about 1 in 19 (5.2%). This risk is slightly higher in men than in women. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States when men and women are considered separately, and the second leading cause when both sexes are combined. It is expected to cause about 49,920 deaths (25,240 in men and 24,680 in women) during 2009.

It is one of the most preventable of cancers, because it develops from polyps that can be removed before they become cancerous.

The death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years. There are a number of likely reasons for this. One is that polyps are being found by screening and removed before they can develop into cancers. Screening is also allowing more colorectal cancers to be found earlier when the disease is easier to cure. In addition, treatment for colorectal cancer has improved over the last several years. As a result, there are now more than 1 million survivors of colorectal cancer in the United States.

Colorectal Cancer Facts from


  • Men and women age 50 and older
  • People who use tobacco, are obese and are sedentary
  • People with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or benign (not cancerous) colorectal polyps
  • People with a personal or family history of inflammatory bowel disease, such as long standing ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • People with a family history of inherited colorectal cancer


  • Be physically active and exercise regularly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a high-fiber diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Consume calcium-rich foods like low-fat or skim milk.
  • Limit red meat and avoid processed meats.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Don’t drink alcohol excessively.

If you are at average risk for colorectal cancer, start having regular screening at age 50. If you are at greater risk, you may need to begin regular screening at an earlier age. The best time to get screened is before any symptoms appear.
Use this guide to help you discuss screening options with your health care professional. Consider one of the following:

Tests that find pre-cancer and cancer:
Colonoscopy - Screening intervals: Every 10 years
Virtual colonoscopy - Screening intervals: Every 5 years
Flexible sigmoidoscopy - Screening intervals: Every 5 years
Double-contrast barium enema - Screening intervals: Every 5 years

Tests that mainly find cancer:
Fecal occult blood test (FOBT): Every year
Fecal immunochemical test (FIT): Every year
Stool DNA test (sDNA): Ask your health care professional

Any abnormal result of a virtual colonoscopy or double-contrast barium enema, as well as a positive FOBT, FIT or sDNA test, should be followed up with a colonoscopy.


  • Rectal bleeding or blood in or on the stool
  • Change in bowel habits and/or stools that are narrower than usual
  • Stomach discomfort (bloating, fullness or cramps)
  • Diarrhea, constipation or feeling that the bowel does not empty completely
  • Weight loss for no apparent reason
  • Constant fatigue
  • Vomiting


  • Surgery is the most common treatment.
  • Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is given before or after surgery, when the cancer has spread.


Pdf Printer Friendly Colorectal Cancer Fact Sheet by Prevent Cancer Foundation