Thursday, March 27, 2014

March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month: Are You at Risk?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer of men and women in the United States, following lung cancer. It is most often found in people aged 50 and older and affects people in all racial and ethnic groups. 2010 CDC incidence rates reveal that black people had the highest rate of colorectal cancer and were also more likely to die of colorectal cancer than any other group. Ashkenazi Jews have one of the highest colorectal cancer risks of any ethnic group in the world, due to several gene mutations that lead to increased risk, the most common of which is found in 6% of American Jews. 

Holy Name Colon and Rectal Surgeon, Ronald White, MD, points out that, although deadly, colorectal cancer is, almost uniquely, one of the truly preventable cancers. Regular screening can prevent many colorectal cancers, because benign polyps that are found during the screening can be removed before they have the chance to turn into cancer. And, if cancer is found during a regular screening, it is more likely to be at an early stage when most curable.

According to Dr. White, if most adults at average risk of (with no personal or family history of colon cancer) had initial screenings at the age of 50, 75% of colorectal cancers could be eliminated. Unfortunately, fewer than 60% of Americans over the age of 50 have had a screening colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy in the past ten years, despite the recommendations of the American Cancer Society, the U.S. Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer and the American College of Radiology that initial screenings take place at the age of 50.

If there is a family history in a first degree relative, Dr. White recommends that the initial screening take place 10 years earlier than the index case or by age 40.  Follow-up surveillance screenings for individuals with no history should be scheduled every ten years, but for people with a history or polyps, every three to five years.

Eating a healthy, high fiber diet – low in animal fat and high in fruits, vegetables, salads - can accrue benefits over decades and help reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, so it’s important to start a healthy diet in childhood.

A colonoscopy is a relatively pain-free, low-risk procedure, so eat a healthy diet, live a healthy lifestyle, reduce your alcohol intake, stop smoking and schedule a colonoscopy during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It can save your life.

For information about programs and services or for a physician referral, please call

1-877-HOLY-NAME (1-877-465-9626) or visit


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