March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month

  • It is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death.
  • Colorectal cancer affects men and women equally, and people of all races and nationalities.
  • Anyone can get colorectal cancer.
  • The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with colorectal cancer is about one in 20.
  • The 5-year relative survival rate for Stage 1 and Stage II colon cancer was 90%; the 5-year survival rate for patients diagnosed at Stage III was 70% and Stage IV was 12%.
  • Colorectal cancer usually develops slowly over a period of 10 to 15 years.
  • Colorectal cancer rates in the US vary widely by geographic area. Contributing factors include regional variations in risk factors and access to screening and treatment.
  • Compared to whites, all other racial/ethnic groups are less likely to have colorectal cancer found in the early stages.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence rates have been declining in the US since the mid-1980s, due to increased awareness and screening.
  • Often, those who are diagnosed with colon cancer have experienced no signs or symptoms associated with the disease.
  • Currently, only about two-thirds of people aged 50 or older, for whom screening is recommended, report having received colorectal cancer testing consistent with current guidelines.
  • While most people diagnosed with colon cancer have no family history of the disease, those with a family history of the disease should begin screening at an earlier age.
  • People with a parent, sibling, or offspring with colorectal cancer have 2 or 3 times the risk of developing colon cancer compared to those with no family history of the disease.

When a relative is diagnosed at a young age or if there is more than one affected relative, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increases to three to six times that of the general population.

  • The risk of colorectal cancer increases with age; 91% of cases are diagnosed in individuals 50 years of age and older.
  • While rates of colon cancer have been declining among adults 50 years and older, incidence of colorectal cancer is increasing among adults under age 50.
  • Between 1998 and 2007 colorectal cancer cases have dropped steadily in adults over 50, but they increased by more than 2% each year in younger adults – as much as 4% for rectal cancers, and 3% for colon cancer.
  • Younger adults were more likely than older adults to be diagnosed with late-stage cancers.
  • People in their 30s were about 30% more likely than other age groups to be diagnosed with cancers in stage III or IV.

About 72% of cases of colorectal cancer in young people arise in the colon and about 28% in the rectum.
According to the American Cancer Society, men and women should begin screening for colon cancer at age 50.

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