March is National Colon Cancer Awareness Month. As the American Cancer Society celebrates its 100th birthday this year, it is emphasizing the importance of screening for colorectal cancer commonly called colon cancer. An estimated 50,830 deaths from colon cancer are expected to occur in 2013, accounting for 9 percent of all cancer deaths. In Iowa nearly 1700 people will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year or more than four people every day. Nearly 600 Iowans will die of colon cancer this year.
On the positive side, colon cancer is one of only two cancers which can be prevented by screening. Precancerous polyps small growths on the lining of the colon or rectum can be removed before they turn into cancer. And colon cancer death rates have dropped by more than 30 percent during the past two decades, thanks in part to the progress made by the American Cancer Society.
American Cancer Society researchers have made important discoveries about colon cancer. Two examples are:
In 1958 one of the most common drugs used to treat colon cancer, 5-flurouracil (5-FU), was synthesized by longtime American Cancer Society researcher Charles Heidelberger, PhD. For over 40 years 5-FU has been a first-line treatment for colon cancer.
In the 1990s the first gene known to cause inherited colon cancer was identified by a team funded by the American Cancer Society and led by researchers Richard Kolodner, PhD, and Bert Vogelstein, MD.
Colorectal cancer is highly treatable if found in its early stages, and half of all colon cancer deaths in the United States could be prevented if everyone followed recommended screening guidelines. Most people should start getting screened for colorectal cancer at age 50, but people with a family history are at higher risk and may need to be screened earlier.
The American Cancer Society is also recommending preventative measures to reduce the risk of developing the disease. Adults should maintain a healthy weight, get plenty of physical activity, and eat a diet that is high in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and low in red and processed meats. Limiting alcohol intake can also help reduce your risk of this disease. For information about colon cancer screening and nutrition and physical activity recommendations please visit www.cancer.org/colon cancer.
The American Cancer Society is working with community partners to provide education and access to colon cancer screening in communities that are hardest hit by the disease. American Cancer Society-funded research has led to improved understanding regarding the link between diet and colorectal cancer, and the development of drugs to treat colorectal cancer. In addition, the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM, are working to ensure that all Americans who need colorectal cancer testing and treatment have access to them.
The American Cancer Society is a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers saving lives and fighting for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. As the largest voluntary health organization, the Society's efforts have contributed to a 20 percent decline in cancer death rates in the U.S. since 1991, and a 50 percent drop in smoking rates. Thanks in part to our progress nearly 14 million Americans who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will celebrate more birthdays this year. As we mark our 100th birthday in 2013, we are determined to finish the fight against cancer. We are finding cures as the nation's largest private, not-for-profit investor in cancer research, ensuring people facing cancer have the help they need and continuing the fight for access to quality health care, lifesaving screenings, clean air, and more. For more information, to get help, or to join the fight, call anytime, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.
The Relay for Life of Tama County is the major local fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. The Relay will occur on June 8 from noon to midnight at the South Tama track.