Colorectal Cancer

coupleColorectal cancer is cancer of the large intestine and/or the rectum, the last six inches of the large intestine.  Colorectal cancer commonly begins from polyps, abnormal tissue growths in the colon. If the polyps become cancerous, the disease will often spread to more of the large intestine as well as other organs and tissues throughout the body.

Colorectal cancer is the second highest cause of cancer-related deaths.  The population most commonly affected by this cancer includes adults over the age of 50.  A genetic predisposition or family history of colorectal cancer is also a proven risk factor. Minorities are at a higher risk for colorectal cancer due to fewer opportunities for screening or available treatment. Other factors that may put a person at risk for colorectal cancer include obesity, an inactive lifestyle, a poor diet (e.g., high in fats, low in fruits, vegetables or fiber), smoking and high alcohol consumption.

Early detection is the most important factor in effectively treating colorectal cancer and preventing death.  Regular screening could decrease a vast majority of the deaths associated with this cancer.  Colorectal cancer is commonly screened using colonoscopies, fecal occult blood tests, and double-contrast barium enema tests.  Each test works uniquely to detect abnormalities, like polyps, that may become cancerous.  A colonoscopy can not only detect polyps, but can remove them and stop cancer from forming as well.  Therefore, this test is used to follow up on any other positive screening test results.  A healthy lifestyle including physical activity, a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and fiber and low in fats and red meat, and not smoking or consuming alcohol in large quantities may also prevent colorectal cancer.

Background on Colorectal Cancer

It is important to reach adults who are 50 years and older and increase their knowledge of colorectal cancer as well as their awareness of the importance for regular testing.  Reminders about when to screen, in addition to relieving social stigma around colorectal cancer and screening can increase the amount of at-risk adults who follow screening guidelines.  Providing access to screening especially benefits the at-risk community in medically underserved areas and populations.  Promoting active living and healthy eating habits with educational programs can help reduce risky behaviors that lead to cancer. Intervention MICA provides examples of colorectal cancer intervention strategies as well as tools and resources to prevent and detect colorectal cancer. 

Healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as good nutrition, being physically active and not using tobacco or alcohol in large quantities, decrease the risk of developing colorectal cancer. For more information on interventions addressing these health topics, please visit Nutrition, Physical Activity and Tobacco.

More background information on colorectal cancer, testing procedures, prevention measures and strategies and educational/outreach programs are available at the following resources:


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