The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2008, about 148,810 people will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and that about 49,960 will die of the disease. The great majority of these cancers and deaths might be prevented by applying existing knowledge about cancer prevention and by wider use of established screening tests. Yet, cancers of the colon and rectum combined are the third most common type of cancer and the third cause of cancer deaths in the United States. i
Although the American Cancer Society and other health organizations recommend that colorectal cancer screening begin at age 50 for individuals at average risk, only half of people aged 50 and older, for whom screening is recommended, have received the recommended tests. i
Anyone can get colorectal cancer. The lifetime risk of being diagnosed with cancer of the colon or rectum is about 5.5% for men and 5.1% for women in the U.S. Although 20% - 25% of colorectal cancer cases occur among individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer or a predisposing illness, about 75% of cases occur in people without these risk factors. i
Screening may prevent many cases of colorectal cancer because most colorectal cancers develop from adenomatous polyps. Polyps are noncancerous growths in the colon and rectum. Detecting polyps through screening and removing them may actually prevent cancer from occurring. Furthermore, being screened at the recommended frequencies improves the chances that colorectal cancers will be detected at an earlier stage. ii
Refer to the American Cancer Society's Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2008-2010 for more information.