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The silent threat: Unmasking the hidden risks of colorectal cancer in the workplace

As an employer, you are likely trying to balance providing meaningful benefits for your employees—offerings that help keep them healthy and engaged at work—with minimizing spending. It’s not an easy task, and it’s often a challenge to know the ROI on those benefits. Additionally, within your workforce, healthcare needs may vary greatly.

However, as an employer you are uniquely positioned to address those diverse employee health needs, especially when it comes to filling gaps in care. A significant healthcare gap that organizations should not ignore is colorectal cancer screening. Colorectal cancer, or cancer that begins in the colon or rectum, is a leading cause of death for adults in the US.1 It accounts for billions of dollars of healthcare spending, and in many cases, employers are footing the bill. Yet there are convenient, affordable screening solutions available to help identify cancer before it reaches that costly (and deadly) stage. 

Improve screening rates with InSure® ONETM

Considering the median age of your workforce, health solutions like preventive colorectal cancer screenings may be a critical—and cost effective—employee benefit. Quest Diagnostics offers InSure® ONE™, an in-home kit for colorectal screening. InSure ONE is a kind of fecal immunochemical test (FIT) recommended for annual screening by the American Cancer Society. FIT tests don’t require fasting or other special preparation and can be completed easily at home. But unlike other FIT tests, InSure ONE is water-based and requires no fecal handling. Participants receive a kit in the mail with complete instructions and everything they need to collect a sample for testing in the privacy of their home. The return is done in a simple, prepaid, pre-addressed envelope.

The specimen is processed at the lab, and within 1 week the confidential results are available online. To ensure as many employees as possible complete a screening, consider a direct mail program to send kits to all eligible employees, rather than asking employees to order the kits themselves.

Cancer and healthcare costs

According to the Color Health Employer Insights Report, in 2022, cancer surpassed musculoskeletal conditions as the leading driver of large companies’ healthcare costs.2 What’s more, new cancer diagnoses in the US are expected to hit an all-time high in 2024, led in part by significant increases in cancer diagnoses for younger Americans.3

Employers have an opportunity to both improve outcomes and reduce costs by focusing on early detection. Cancer screening can help identify cancer early, which can lead to a 6-8x increase in survival rates and up to a 75% reduction in treatment costs.2 Most employers agree that efforts to promote early detection of cancer is worth prioritizing, but not all agree on how to do that.

The role of healthcare access

Access to healthcare is a social determinant of health that may have a significant impact on whether an individual can get the healthcare they need. According to the CDC, social determinants of health are “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play that affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.”4 In addition to healthcare access, other social determinants of health include education access and quality, social and community context, economic stability, and neighborhood and built environment.

At times, individuals do not get the recommended screenings and preventive care because they do not have a primary care provider, or they live too far away from healthcare providers to get regular care. A similar barrier is transportation; if an individual doesn’t have reliable transportation, they are more likely to postpone or miss appointments and potentially not take needed medication.5

In some areas in the country, healthcare resources have limited availability, due to physician shortages or because of low rates of individuals with health insurance. In these areas, even if individuals do have a primary care provider, they may have to wait long periods of time between appointments and may not be able to get an appointment when it is most needed.

Consider your employee population. Even if the majority of employees has access to a primary care provider, are there other barriers to them getting the healthcare they need? How can you help your workforce stay up to date on recommended cancer screenings? Consider how an at-home screening, such as a FIT, can help your employees meet screening recommendations.

Why should employers focus on colorectal cancer prevention specifically?

Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in the US. It is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US.1 When colorectal cancer is detected early, before it has spread, about 90% will survive 5 years or more. Unfortunately, only about 4 out of 10 colorectal cancers are discovered at this early stage.6

Workplace screening can reach a lot of people. According to the American Cancer Society, adults at average risk should begin regular screening for colorectal cancer at age 45.7 Unfortunately, close to 1 in 3 US adults who should be tested for colorectal cancer have never been screened.6 By focusing on colorectal cancer prevention, employers may see significant healthcare savings, as total costs of care for colorectal cancer were estimated at over $24 billion a year since 2020.8

Do screening methods other than a colonoscopy really work?

Although a colonoscopy is the gold standard of colorectal cancer screening, it’s an expensive, in-hospital procedure. Many people are apprehensive about the colonoscopy procedure. Others may not have a primary care provider and may be unaware of their screening options. The water-based FIT test detects hidden blood found in the stool. If the FIT is positive* (blood is detected), the individual will follow up with a medical professional and will likely need to complete a colonoscopy.9 If negative, individuals can continue to complete a FIT screening each year rather than opting for the more invasive and expensive colonoscopy.

Give your employees the option of staying up to date on recommended cancer screening by offering the InSURE ONE FIT, which can be completed from the comfort and privacy of home. This affordable, easy to implement screening tool is one way that employers can help decrease gaps in care, improve screening compliance, and save on healthcare spend.  


*A positive result does not necessarily mean the individual has colorectal cancer. Blood in fecal samples may indicate lower gastrointestinal bleeding associated with disorders such as diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, polyps, colorectal cancers or large adenomas that bleed. 

1.        American Cancer Society. Key statistics for colorectal cancer. January 17, 2024. Accessed February 13, 2024.

2.        Color Health. Employer Insights Report 2024. February 2024. Accessed February 13, 2024.

3.        Reed, T. New cancer diagnoses expected to hit record high this year. Axios. January 17, 2024. Accessed January 22, 2024.

4.        CDC. About social determinants of health. December 8, 2022. Accessed February 13, 2024.

5.        Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Access to health services. April 2022. Accessed August 22, 2022.

6.        American Cancer Society. Can colorectal polyps and cancer be found early? June 29, 2020. Accessed February 22, 2024.

7.        American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society guideline for colorectal cancer screening. November 17, 2020. Accessed February 22, 2024.

8.        Financial burden of cancer care. National Cancer Institute. August 2023. Accessed February 13, 2024.

9.        American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society guideline for colorectal cancer screening. November 17, 2020. Accessed February 13, 2024.