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For Release: March 11, 2015 – Pamela Williams, Office of Communications – 405/271-5601

Early Screening for Colorectal Cancer Can Save Lives

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Chronic Disease Service and the American Cancer Society and its partners would like to remind Oklahomans that March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer is preventable through routine screening. In Oklahoma, colorectal cancer is the third most diagnosed cancer in both men and women. In 2012 nearly 2000 Oklahomans were diagnosed with colorectal cancer and in 2012 and 2013 approximately 750 of them died. Nationally in 2011, more than 135,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and nearly 52,000 died from the disease.

Colorectal cancer is a malignancy, or type of cancer, affecting either the colon or the rectum. The colon and rectum are the lower portions of the digestive system.  Most colon cancers begin as tiny polyps, which are common growths in the lining of colon, and over time these polyps become cancerous. Colon cancer screening tests work by detecting polyps or early stage cancers followed by removal of the abnormality. Through a procedure called a colonoscopy, screening for and removal of polyps reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer by up to 90 percent. Early detection of cancers that are already present in the colon increases the chance of successful treatment and decreases the chance of dying as a result of the cancer.

Also, lifestyle changes may reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer. OSDH recommends the following healthy habits to help prevent the disease:

  • adding a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your meals
  • quitting use of all tobacco products
  • moderating or eliminating alcohol use
  • exercising at least 30 minutes a day and
  • maintaining a healthy body weight.

People over age 50 should speak with their health care provider about screening for colorectal cancer, and anyone with a family history should talk to their health care provider about screening at an earlier age. African Americans and American Indians may consider screening at an earlier age due to the fact that they are statistically at a greater risk of developing the disease at an earlier age.

The OSDH Chronic Disease Service has partnered with the American Cancer Society and other organizations in an effort to eliminate colorectal cancer as a major public health concern in the U.S. The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable initiative, 80% by 2018,” has dozens of organizations committed to a shared goal of having 80% of adults aged 50 and older being regularly screened for colorectal cancer by 2018. 

For additional information on colorectal cancer, contact Bradon Nave with the OSDH Chronic Disease Service Oklahoma Comprehensive Cancer Program at 405-271-4072 or bradonn@health.ok.gov.    

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