Cancer Types | Colorectal Cancer - National Foundation for Cancer Research

Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal Cancer

About Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the U.S. Although the death rate from colorectal cancer has been dropping for the past 30 years, it is still the third leading cause of cancer death for both men and for women in the U.S.

Colorectal Cancer Key Facts

  • There are currently about 1.4 million more than one million colorectal cancer survivors in the U.S.
  • The overall lifetime risk of developing colorectal cancer is 1 in 23 for men and 1 in 25 for women.
  • With regular screenings, colorectal cancer can be preventable.
  • The age for colorectal cancer screening is now 45 years instead of 50 years.
  • Several factors may place you at a higher risk for colorectal cancer, including age, personal history of polyps or cancer, inflammatory bowel disorders, type 2 diabetes, family history, genetics and lifestyle choices, such as low physical activity, obesity, smoking, moderate to heavy alcohol use, very low intake of fruits and vegetables, and diets high in red and processed meats.
  • Early-stage colorectal cancer typically does not cause symptoms, which is why screening according to patient risk is so important.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Cancer Facts & Figures 2024
Colorectal Cancer Location
or more survivors in the U.S. today
in 23 men will be diagnosed
in 25 women will be diagnosed

According to the American Cancer Society, overall the most effective way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer is to get screened for colorectal cancer routinely, beginning at age 45.

Some other effective ways:

  • A healthy diet – low in animal fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Increase physical activity
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Avoid smoking
  • Vitamins, calcium, and magnesium
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Hormone replacement therapy for women


Colorectal Cancer Prevention | How to Prevent Colorectal Cancer | American Cancer Society

The symptoms listed below do not mean you have cancer. You should see your doctor or health care professional so the cause can be found and treated if needed.

  • A change in bowel habits, such as diarrhea, constipation, or narrowing of the stool, that lasts for more than a few days
  • A feeling that you need to have a bowel movement that’s not relieved by having one
  • Rectal bleeding with bright red blood
  • Blood in the stool, which might make the stool look dark brown or black
  • Cramping or abdominal (belly) pain
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Unintended weight loss
Source: American Cancer Society 2024
  • Age – risker when you get older
  • Race/Ethnicity – American Indian and Alaska Native people have the highest rates
  • Sex – men who have colorectal cancer are more likely to die from it than women. 
  • Cholecystectomy
  • Personal history of
    • colorectal polyps or colorectal cancer
    • inflammatory bowel disease
    • radiation to the abdomen or pelvis area
  • Family history of colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps
  • Having an inherited syndrome
    • Lynch syndrome (hereditary non-polyposis colon cancer or HNPCC)
    • Familial adenomatous polyposis
    • Rare inherited conditions linked to colorectal cancer
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes mellitus, Type 2
  • Diets that are low in fruits, vegetables, and fibers but high in processed and red meats
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Lack of physical activity

Resource: Colorectal Cancer Risk Factors | Hereditary Colorectal Risk Factors | American Cancer Society

NFCR-Supported Researchers Working on Colorectal Cancer

Yung-Chi Cheng, Ph.D.

Yale University

James P. Basilion, Ph.D.
Case Western Reserve University

Daniel D. Von Hoff, M.D., FACP
Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen)

Wei Zhang, Ph.D.
Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

Paul Schimmel, Ph.D.
Scripps Research

Xiang-Lei Yang, Ph.D.
Scripps Research

Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is recognized in March.