Original Paper

Journal of Community Health

, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 1-9

First online:

Has the Surge in Media Attention Increased Public Awareness About Colorectal Cancer and Screening?

  • Paul C. SchroyIIIAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Section of Gastroenterology, Boston University School of Medicine Email author 
  • , Julie T. GlickAffiliated withSection of Gastroenterology, Boston Medical Center
  • , Patricia A. RobinsonAffiliated withSection of Gastroenterology, Boston Medical Center
  • , Maria A. LydotesAffiliated withSection of Gastroenterology, Boston Medical Center
  • , Stephen R. EvansAffiliated withData Coordinating Center, Boston University School of Public Health
  • , Karen M. EmmonsAffiliated withCenter for Community Based Research, Dana Farber Cancer Institute

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Screen for Life campaign in March 1999 followed by the creation of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in March 2000 heralded a surge in media attention to promote awareness about CRC and stimulate interest in screening. Our objective was to assess whether these campaigns have achieved their goal of educating the public about CRC and screening. The study sample was comprised of mostly unscreened, average-risk, English-speaking patients aged 50–75 years seen in an urban primary care setting. Knowledge was assessed using a 12-item true/false questionnaire based primarily on the content of key messages endorsed by the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (Cancer 95:1618–1628, 2002) and adopted in many of the media campaigns. Multiple linear regression was performed to identify demographic correlates of knowledge. A total of 356 subjects (83% <age 65, 58% female, 60% Black, 7% Hispanic, 60% ≤high school degree, 31% prior FOBT ) were surveyed. Most respondents (≥67%) were aware of who gets CRC, age to initiate screening, the goals of screening and potential benefits. Fewer were aware that removing polyps can prevent CRC and that both polyps and CRC may be asymptomatic. Knowledge scores were lower among Blacks and those with a high school degree or less. Race and education were independent correlates of knowledge. These data suggest that recent media campaigns have been effective in increasing public awareness about CRC risk and screening but important gaps in knowledge remain.


Colorectal cancer Screening Public awareness Patient education Media campaigns