Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives

According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost 1,000 colorectal cancer deaths could be prevented each year if enough people get screened for the disease. But about one-third of adults aged 50 or older, the age group at greatest colorectal cancer risk, have not been screened as recommended.

Screening can find precancerous polyps (abnormal growths) that can be removed before they turn into cancer, and can find cancer early when it is easiest to treat. Five types of tests can screen for colorectal cancer. The best-known test is the colonoscopy, in which a colonoscope is inserted through the rectum into the colon. This thin tube has a light and lens for viewing and can also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are then checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.

A colonoscopy is more than just the best-known test. It is also recommended if any of the other tests yields an abnormal result. The other tests include the following:

  • A fecal occult blood test checks for blood in the stool, which could be a sign of polyps, cancer, or other conditions.
  • A sigmoidoscopy checks the rectum and lower colon for polyps, abnormal areas, or cancer.
  • A virtual colonoscopy (also called a computed tomography colonography, or CTC) uses X-rays that can show polyps or anything unusual inside the colon.
  • A DNA stool test checks the DNA in stool cells for genetic changes that might signal colorectal cancer.

Did You Know?

Among people who are uninsured, only 29.7% were screened for colorectal cancer in 2018. Even among people with private health insurance, only 64.3% were screened.

Reduce Your Risk

There is no sure way to prevent colorectal cancer, but you can still lower your disease risk by doing the following:

  • Stay at a healthy weight and avoid weight gain around your midsection.
  • Increase the amount and intensity of physical activity.
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits, and limit your consumption of red and processed meats.
  • Avoid excess alcohol, especially if you’re a man.
  • Don’t smoke.

Talk with your doctor to see what type of screening is best for you.


Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of death from cancer in the United States

4.4% and 4.1%

Percent of men and women, respectively, who will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in their lifetime

104,610 and 43,340

New cases of colon and colorectal cancer, respectively, expected in 2020


American Cancer Society’s recommended age to start regular screening for colorectal cancer for people at average risk