Digestive Health

The history of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

A Caucasian man and woman wearing blue-colored clothing hold hands while looking at one another.


Learn about the history of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and how the campaign works to educate people and prevent the disease


By Scott Estabrook, MD Section Chief and Medical Director, Gastroenterology, Nuvance Health


Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is observed annually in March and is dedicated to raising awareness about the prevention, detection and treatment of colorectal cancer. What started out as a small group of people advocating for awareness of the disease in 1999, blossomed into a national campaign. Fast forward to today and healthcare organizations, advocacy groups, and individuals around the nation now observe Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month every March in a shared mission to educate the public about the risks associated with colorectal cancer and the importance of early detection.


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Initiatives during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month


You may not have known it, but colorectal cancer is leading cause of cancer deaths in men and the second cause of cancer deaths in women under age 50, according to an American Cancer Society 2024 report. Throughout the years, multiple initiatives have been launched to bolster awareness surrounding colorectal cancer.


These efforts include educational campaigns, community outreach programs and fundraising events. By shedding light on the impact of colorectal cancer and providing vital information on prevention strategies and screening options, these initiatives strive to reduce the incidence and mortality rates linked to colorectal cancer such as Dress in Blue Day.


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The origins and significance of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month can be traced back to 1999 when it was first established by several organizations, including the Colorectal Cancer Alliance and the American Cancer Society. In February 2000, President Bill Clinton officially designated March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The primary objective of the campaign is to emphasize the importance of early screening and prevention, given that colorectal cancer ranks as the third most common cancer worldwide.


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Efforts to raise awareness and advocate for prevention during the month of March encompass a variety of approaches. Educational campaigns are launched to inform the public about risk factors, symptoms and screening options. The campaigns emphasize the importance of regular screenings, such as colonoscopies, for early detection and improved treatment outcomes.


Learn more about colorectal cancer at the Nuvance Health Cancer Institute.


Many events and activities are organized throughout the month of March to engage communities and raise awareness such as Dress in Blue Day. Dress in Blue Day gives people an opportunity to show their support by wearing blue-colored clothing — the official color of the Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month campaign. By wearing blue, you bring awareness to colorectal cancer, support the work of all doctors involved in treatment and honor those who are impacted by the disease.


Colorectal Cancer Awareness events also include walks, runs and fundraising events that not only generate funds for research and support programs but also provide platforms for survivors to share their stories and inspire others.


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Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month also serves as an opportunity for many hospitals around the nation, including Nuvance Health, to offer educational resources, screenings, and support services to their patients and communities. Through partnerships with local organizations, Nuvance Health reaches a broader audience and makes a substantial impact in the fight against colorectal cancer.


Related Content: What you need to know about colorectal cancer screenings, prevention and risk


The bottom line: As we reflect on the history and impact of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, let us continue to raise awareness, advocate for prevention and support those affected by this disease. Together, we can make a difference in the fight against colorectal cancer and strive for a future where colorectal cancer no longer poses a significant threat to public health. Colorectal cancer occurrences have decreased in people aged 50 and older, thanks to screenings. The milestone achieved contributes to generating awareness about the importance of screening brought to light during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.