Colorectal cancer starts in the colon (large intestine) or rectum. The risk of colorectal cancer goes up as you get older (90% of cases occur in people over 50), and if you eat a meat-heavy diet, smoke, or have a family history of the cancer. Colorectal cancer symptoms include pain, blood in the stool, and a change in bowel habits. Routine screening for colorectal cancer is recommended starting at age 50—or even sooner for those with risk factors.
Stepped-up colon-cancer screening has helped slash death rates from the disease across the U.S. in recent years, but not all regions of the country have benefited equally. According to a new study from the American Cancer Society, the drop in death rates has been considerably faster in the Northeast than in the South.