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February 27,  2002

Colon Cancer Highly Preventable, American Cancer Society Says, As Third Annual National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month Begins

(SafetyAlerts) - Colon cancer can be easily prevented; yet it remains the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States and will claim nearly 57,000 American lives this year. According to the American Cancer Society, the nation's leading voluntary health organization, many of those lives could be saved if people better understood the risks for the disease and got tested regularly. Colon cancer screening tests identify suspicious or pre-cancerous polyps, which can be removed before they develop into a serious health problem.

"Routine colon cancer testing can actually prevent the disease from occurring," said Robert C. Young, MD, national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society. "Societal roadblocks, however, need to be overcome to make this the norm. Many people find colon cancer an embarrassing topic to raise, even with their doctors. For a variety of reasons, many doctors do not discuss the issue with patients at risk for the disease, including those 50 or older and African Americans."

"With colon cancer testing, we can see parallels with where Pap testing was 60 years ago," said Durado D. Brooks, MD, MPH, director of colon cancer programs at the American Cancer Society's National Home Office. "Once Pap testing became widely discussed and implemented, the beneficial results in preventing cervical cancers were clearly evident. Likewise, we could expect the same widespread prevention success with colon cancer if doctors openly discuss the subject with their patients and urge them to get the recommended test."

Preventing colon cancer altogether through testing is the ideal outcome, but early detection of the disease also yields important health benefits. People whose colon cancers are found at an early stage through testing have five-year survival rates of 90 percent. However, only 37 percent of colon cancers are detected in the earliest stages. Of those whose cancers are found at late stage, the five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent.

This March, as the nation observes the third annual National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, the American Cancer Society is boosting efforts to increase colon cancer testing and to eliminate the taboo associated with talking about the disease-for the public and the medical community. Working with the Advertising Council, the Society has rolled out an extensive public service advertising campaign featuring "Polyp Man(TM)." Appearing in ads in a conspicuous red suit, Polyp Man(TM) is a nuisance until doctors catch and haul him away. Polyp Man(TM) grabs viewers' attention and cuts through barriers with the use of humor, while getting across the simple truth: Colon Cancer: Get the test. Get the polyp. Get the cure. Print and television ads began running in January, with peak visibility occurring this month.

Both men and women are at risk for colon cancer. Personal risk varies, so your doctor can help you make informed decisions about when to begin testing and the most appropriate testing method for you. Factors associated with increased risk for colon cancer include:

* Age -- most diagnosed are 50 or older
* Race -- African Americans are at greater risk
* Personal or family history of colon cancer
* Personal or family history of intestinal polyps
* Personal history of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative or
Crohn's colitis)
* Certain genetic factors (familial adenomatous polyposis, Gardner's
syndrome, hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer, Ashkenazi
Jewish descent)
* Smoking or use of other tobacco products
* Physical inactivity
* Diets high in red meat.

Source: PRNewswire

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