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ACS Encourages African-Americans 50 and Older to Test for Colon Cancer

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The American Cancer Society encourages African Americans 50 and older to make getting tested for colon cancer a priority. Approximately 2,000 African American men and women in California are expected to be diagnosed with colon cancer in 2011.

Colorectal cancer (commonly referred to as colon cancer) can actually be prevented through screening, which allows doctors to find polyps in the colon and remove them before they turn cancerous.

Regularly scheduled cancer screening can save lives and help achieve the American Cancer Society’s goal of creating a world with less cancer and more birthdays.

For those seeking assistance visit cancer.org or call 1.800.227.2345 for free information and details about free cancer patient/caregiver support programs.

Screening for colon cancer has been proven to reduce deaths from the disease both by decreasing the number of people who are diagnosed with it and by finding a higher proportion of cancers at early, more treatable stages. Colon cancer rates in California have declined rapidly in the last two decades. Incidence rates of colon cancer in California declined significant ly for all four major racial/ethnic groups since 1988 – a decrease of 27% among non- Hispanic whites, 18% among African Americans, 14% among Asian/Pacific Islanders and 7% among Hispanics.

While incidence of colon cancer is declining, screening rates among African Americans remain low.

“We have an opportunity to significantly reduce California death rates from colon cancer through regular screening,” said Dr. Donald Henderson, American Cancer Society volunteer and colon cancer expert. “And, this cancer can be prevented through early detection and removal of polyps. We hope that people will use March – National Colon Cancer Awareness Month – as an opportunity to make screening a priority and talk to their doctors, family members and friends about getting tested. By doing so, they are taking a key step toward staying well.”

An estimated 14,775 total cases of colorectal cancer are expected to occur in California in 2011, and an estimated 5,090 deaths. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women.

Risk factors for colon cancer include a personal family history of the disease.

The American Cancer Society recommends the following tests to find colon cancer early:

Tests That Detect Precancerous Polyps and Cancer

• Flexible sigmoidoscopy every 5 years, or

• Colonoscopy every 10 years, or

• Double contrast barium enema (DCBE) every 5 years, or

• CT colonography (CTC) every 5 years Tests That Primarily Detect Cancer

• Annual guaiac-based fecal occult blood test (gFOBT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or

• Annual fecal immunochemical test (FIT) with high test sensitivity for cancer, or

• Stool DNA test (sDNA), with high sensitivity for cancer, interval uncertain. Because of a greater potential to prevent cancer, the tests that have a higher likelihood of finding both polyps and cancer are preferred if patients are willing to use them and have access.

In addition to screening, healthy lifestyle behaviors can reduce risk of colon cancer. Studies show that being overweight or obese increases risk of colon cancer, and people whose diets include a high amount of red and processed meats are at increased risk. The American Cancer Society recommends that adults engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on five or more days of the week; and consume a healthy diet that includes five or more servings of vegetables and fruits each day, whole grains (instead of processed grains and sugars), limited alcohol and processed and red meats, and control led port ion sizes. Smoking also increases risk of colon cancer. A 2009 study from the American Cancer Society found that long-term smoking (smoking for 40 or more years) increases colon cancer risk by 30 to 50 percent

. The Society has proven smoking cessation programs – Freshstart® and the Quit For Life® Program operated by Free & Clear®.

Thanks to improvements in prevention, early detection, and treatment, more than a million people in the U.S. count themselves as survivors of colon cancer. Whether you’re worried about developing colon cancer, making decisions about your treatment, or trying to stay well after treatment, the American Cancer Society can help.

Visit cancer.org or call 1.800.227.2345 for details.

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