March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
Thanks to improvements in prevention, early detection and treatment, more than 1 million people in the United States count themselves as survivors of colon cancer. As the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th birthday this year, it is emphasizing the importance of age-appropriate colorectal cancer screenings and asking you to help defeat the disease by enrolling in a historic research study.
An estimated 5,135 Californians will die from colorectal cancer (commonly called colon cancer) in 2013, accounting for nine percent of all cancer deaths.
Colon cancer prevention
Diet, weight, and exercise all affect your risk for colon cancer. You can help lower your risk by eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grain, and eating less red and processed meats. Men should limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day, and women to no more than one drink a day. You can also help lower your risk for colon cancer by getting more exercise and staying at a healthy weight. Smoking also increases the risk, so if you smoke, try to kick the habit.
For more information about colon cancer screening and nutrition and physical activity recommendations visit cancer.org/coloncancer.
Detecting colon cancer early
Over the past few decades, more people have survived colon cancer and fewer people have died from it. This is thanks partly to improvements in colon cancer screening. Screening, the process of looking for cancer or pre-cancer in people who have no symptoms of the disease, can find colon cancer early, before symptoms develop, when it’s easier to treat. Screening can also sometimes find growths called polyps so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.
Half of all colon cancer deaths in the U.S. could be prevented if everyone followed recommended screening guidelines. The American Cancer Society recommends regular colon cancer screening for most people starting at age 50. People with a family history of the disease or other risk factors should talk with their doctor about beginning screening at a younger age.
Colon cancer screening tests
The American Cancer Society recommends the following tests to find colon cancer early:
Tests that detect precancerous polyps and cancer include flexible sigmoidoscopy every five years; colonoscopy every 10 years; double-contrast barium enema every five years; CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy) every five years.
Tests that primarily detect cancer include fecal occult blood test (FOBT) every year; fecal immunochemical test (FIT) every year; and stool DNA test (sDNA).
American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-3 (CPS-3)
This spring, the society is offering an unprecedented opportunity for Californians to change the face of colon cancer and all cancers for future generations by participating in a historic long-term study. Three hundred thousand diverse men and women ages 30 to 65 who have never been diagnosed with cancer are needed to enroll in the study.
“Many cancer patients struggle to answer the question, ‘What caused my cancer?’ In many cases, we don’t know the answer,” said Alpa V. Patel, Ph.D., principal investigator of CPS-3. “CPS-3 will help us better understand what factors cause cancer, and once we know that, we can be better equipped to prevent cancer.”
Dr. Patel added, “Our previous cancer prevention studies have been instrumental in helping us identify some of the major factors that can affect cancer risk. CPS-3 holds the best hope of identifying new and emerging cancer risks, and we can only do this if members of the community are willing to become involved.”
For more information about CPS-3 visit www.cancer.org/cps3 or call 800-227-2345 or 373-6660.
Maria Robinson is Director of Corporate Communications, California Division with the American Cancer Society which is a partner of Solano Coalition for Better Health.