For Patients

Age and health history can affect the risk of developing colon cancer.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn’t mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor. Risk factors include the following:

  • Age 50 or older.
  • A family history of cancer of the colon or rectum.
  • A personal history of cancer of the colon, rectum, ovary, endometrium or breast.
  • A history of polyps (small pieces of bulging tissue) in the colon.
  • A history of ulcerative colitis (ulcers in the lining of the large intestine) or Crohn’s disease.
  • Certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome).


A colonoscopy is a procedure to look inside the rectum and colon for polyps, abnormal areas or cancer. A colonoscope is inserted through the rectum into the colon. A colonoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a tool to remove polyps or tissue samples, which are checked under a microscope for signs of cancer.
-National Cancer Institute, 2009

Golden Globe® and Academy Award® nominated actor and musician Terrence Howard has joined CDC’s Screen for Life: National Colorectal Cancer Action Campaign!

Mr. Howard talks about his mother, her influence on him, and how her death from colon cancer affected his whole family. He says, “This is personal but there is something you can do to prevent this disease.” He urges men and women aged 50 and older to be screened for colorectal cancer.