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Why should I be screened for colorectal (colon) cancer?

Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death for both men and women in the U.S. It is also one of the most preventable cancers; screening can identify precancerous polyps, which can then be removed before they become cancerous.

The average risk for the development of colon cancer is approximately 6%, or 1 out of 16 people. Screening for colon cancer can detect early signs of cancer and reduce your personal risk.

People who have family members with a history of colon cancer and/or colon polyps are at increased risk compared to the average person.

People at average risk for the development of colon cancer should begin screening for colon cancer at age 45 for African Americans and at age 50 for Caucasians.

Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum) is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. Every year, more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and more than 50,000 people die from it.

The risk of getting colorectal cancer increases with age. More than 90% of cases occur in people who are 50 years old or older. Colorectal cancer screening saves lives, but many people are not being screened according to national guidelines.

If you're 50 years old or older, getting a screening test for colorectal cancer could save your life. Here's how:

  • Colorectal cancer screening tests can find precancerous polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer. In this way, colorectal cancer is prevented.
  • Screening tests also can find colorectal cancer early, when treatment often leads to a cure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.