Michigan Supports the Fight Against Cancer Recognizing March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month

Contact: James McCurtis (517) 241-2112
Agency: Community Health

March 24, 2009

The Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) recognizes March as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related death in Michigan, is largely preventable, beatable, and treatable.

In 2006, 910 men and 984 women died of colorectal cancer in 2006. Michigan is ranked 31st in the nation in colorectal cancer deaths. The good news is that screening tests can find polyps - abnormal growths in the colon or rectum - early when the chance of being cured is more likely.

"Colorectal cancer screening can find precancerous polyps so that they can be removed before turning into cancer," said MDCH Director Janet Olszewski. "Colorectal cancer is one of the most detectable and, if found early enough, most treatable forms of cancer." The Michigan Cancer Consortium (MCC) recommends colorectal cancer screening for men and women of average risk starting at age 50.

Everyone is at risk of developing colorectal cancer. Increasing age is the main risk factor for colorectal cancer, with more than 90 percent of cases being found in persons over the age of 50. Family history of colon cancer or pre-cancerous polyps also increases the risk of developing colorectal cancer. Other risk factors include:

- A personal history of colon cancer, pre-cancerous colon polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease;

- Being Jewish of Eastern European descent;

- A diet high in animal fats or low in fiber;

- Not being physically active;

- Obesity;

- Diabetes;

- Smoking; and

- Heavy use of alcohol

You can help prevent colorectal cancer by following these steps:

- Get screened;

- Talk to your health care provider about what screening test is right for you;

- Make healthy choices every day;

- Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy weight;

- Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains;

- Avoid smoking; and

- Avoid drinking excessively

To learn more about colorectal cancer, please visit the MCC Web site at www.michigancancer.org.