March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The goal of the annual National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is to make people aware of colorectal cancer and to encourage people to learn more about how to reduce their risk of colorectal cancer (CRC) through regular screening and a healthy lifestyle. The results of the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) administered to 32,374 adults 18 years of age or older in 2000 showed that colorectal cancer screening is underused [1]. Just over 60% of adults had ever had colorectal cancer testing. Only 44% of men and 37% of women greater than 75 years of age were current for testing. Colorectal cancer screening is very important. If colorectal cancer is allowed to metastasize (meaning to spread to other parts of the body), the 5-year survival rate is less than 10%. However, if colorectal cancer is found early, the 5-year survival rate is greater than 90% [2].

Cancer Prevention

As much as 70% of all cancers are preventable through diet and lifestyle [1]. Cancer is the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people between the ages of 45 and 74, taking more than 550,000 lives a year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 20% of all cancer cases are related to obesity [2]. Highlight HEALTH is taking this opportunity to provide information about choosing healthy lifestyle alternatives to reduce your risks for developing cancer.

Decrease in US Cancer Deaths

In 2003, cancer deaths in the United States decreased by 369 deaths compared to 2002, the first drop seen since 1930. In 2004, the decrease in cancer deaths was eight times greater – 3,014 deaths – than in 2003, according to a report published in the latest issue of the American Cancer Society (ACS) journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians [1].

Experts are attributing the decreases to declines in smoking, earlier detection and more effective treatment of tumors. The three most common cancers — breast cancer, prostate cancer and colorectal cancer – show a decrease in death rates, with the largest change from colorectal cancer. Experts attribute much of the credit for the reduction in colorectal cancer to screening exams and the early detection of polyps that can be removed before they become cancerous.