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Is it time for your colorectal cancer screening?

A masked healthcare worker and patient look at a clipboard together.

March 19, 2021—The American Cancer Society (ACS) is predicting more than 149,000 new cases of colorectal cancer this year. How likely is it you'll be one of them?

That can depend on your risk factors. As for most cancers, there are risk factors that can be changed and those that can't.

Know where you stand

For colorectal cancer, risk factors under your control include:

  • Being overweight.
  • Being inactive.
  • Eating a diet high in red meats or processed meats.
  • Smoking.
  • Moderate to heavy alcohol use.

Risk factors you can't change include:

  • A personal history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
  • A personal history of inflammatory bowel disease.
  • A family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.
  • Certain inherited genetic traits.
  • Your racial and ethnic background. (Being Black or an Ashkenazi Jew raises your risk.)
  • Type 2 diabetes.

Screening saves lives

Colorectal cancer is one of the top causes of cancer death for both men and women. The good news is the death rate has been going down for decades. And part of that decline is likely due to increased screening for the disease.

But there's a key exception: For several years now, deaths from colorectal cancer in adults younger than 55 have been steadily increasing.

That's one reason the ACS recommends that people at average risk start getting screened at age 45. Those at high risk may want to start even earlier.

According to the ACS, the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is about 90% when the cancer is caught early. And that's what screening can do. You can choose to be screened with a test that looks for signs of cancer in your stool. Or you can choose a test that examines your rectum and colon.

Learn more about your screening choices. And talk to your doctor about the screening option that's most appropriate for you.

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