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March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services reminds Missourians that this March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. During this month a nationwide effort is undertaken to educate the public about steps that can protect against colorectal cancer and reduce the number of people who die each year from this disease.

"After lung cancer, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer related deaths for men and women, both statewide and nationally," said Bert Malone, Director of the department's Division of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Last year, an estimated 1300 Missourians died from cancer of the colon or rectum, but many of these deaths could have been prevented. Malone continued, "Missourians need to know that regular screening, beginning when they are 50, can detect the disease in its most treatable stages and may also prevent colorectal cancer by identifying pre-cancerous polyps for removal."

Less than one-third of Missouri's adults age 50 or older obtain screening as recommended by the American Cancer Society. The goal of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is to generate public awareness about colorectal cancer and encourage disease prevention through regular screening and healthy living. Moderate exercise has positive effects in reducing the risks for this disease along with a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains while keeping consumption of animal fats at a minimum.

Each year has seen an increasing number of community groups in Missouri sponsoring local awareness campaigns with a variety of events. Activities include presentations at libraries, hospitals, workplaces and churches and often an offer of free Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT) kits, an easy test that can be taken in the privacy of one's own home. Contact your health care provider, local hospital, or the local public health agency to find out if free FOBT kits are available in your area.

"There's simply no need to die from embarrassment," says Malone. "If Missourians would follow the American Cancer Society's screening recommendations when they reach age 50, we could reduce deaths from colorectal cancer by up to 70-80%. That's potentially over 1000 lives that could be saved each year, every year, in Missouri alone."

Additional information about colorectal cancer prevention and detection is available free of charge from the Cancer Research Foundation of America at 1-800-227-CRFA or www.preventcancer.org/colorectal and from the American Cancer Society at 1-800-ACS-2345 or www.cancer.org. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, Bureau of Cancer Control can also be contacted by calling 1-800-316-0935.


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last updated: 10/27/08
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