State Health Commissioner Urges New Yorkers to be Screened for Colorectal Cancer

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 3, 2008) – March is recognized as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and State Health Commissioner Richard F. Daines, M.D. is urging all New Yorkers over aged 50 to be screened for colorectal cancer.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in men and women in this country, excluding skin cancers, and the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in New York. Approximately 11,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are diagnosed each year in New York, and 4,000 men and women die from the disease annually.

"Screening tests can prevent colorectal cancer by finding polyps that can be removed before they turn into cancer," said Commissioner Daines. "Screening tests can also find colorectal cancer early, when the chance of being cured is very good. If New Yorkers who are aged 50 and older have regular screening tests, we will see a substantial reduction in the number of deaths annually."

Colorectal cancer is the term used for cancers that start in the colon or the rectum. A polyp is a non-cancerous growth of tissue or tumor that grows before cancer develops. A polyp grows on the lining of the colon or rectum and may change into cancer. When polyps are found early, they can be removed before they turn into cancer and colorectal cancer can be prevented.

Colorectal cancer can affect anyone, men and women alike, and the risk increases with age. According to the American Cancer Society, more than 90 percent of colon cancer cases occur in people aged 50 and older.

All men and women who are at average risk for colorectal cancer should start getting tested at aged 50. Some people have a greater risk for colorectal cancer than others. These include people with a personal or family history of colorectal cancer, intestinal polyps or inflammatory bowel disease, and people with certain inherited diseases. People who are at increased risk should talk to their health care providers about starting colorectal cancer testing earlier or more often.

"Talking with your health care provider is vital when it comes to preventing colorectal cancer," said Commissioner Daines. "Colorectal cancer is easily treated and often curable when detected early. The tests are not painful and are often covered by Medicare and many health insurers."

The New York State Department of Health provides access to free colorectal cancer screening for uninsured New Yorkers in every county in the state. Many of these programs are offering special colorectal cancer screening events this month as part of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

To learn about colorectal cancer screening events in your county and to find a cancer screening program near you, call 1-866-442-CANCER (1-866-442-2262).