8 Ways

Cancer Prevention Works

The recent Annual Report to the Nation featuring colon cancer trends (http://bit.ly/ccF9ma) highlights the success of prevention in reducing colorectal cancer incidence and mortality. Colorectal cancer is the third most frequently diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States for men and women combined. In the US, an estimated 147,000 individuals were diagnosed with colorectal cancer last year and approximately 50,000 men and women died from this disease. More than 90% of new cases are diagnosed in men and women 50 years of age and older.

While overall cancer incidence has decreased at 0.7% per year from 1999 to 2006; colorectal cancer has declined steadily since 1984 and quickened the decline since 2002. Incidence of new cases has decreased between 2 and 4 percent per year for colorectal cancer. Overall from 1975 to 2000, incidence decreased by 22%. Deaths from colorectal cancer have decreased too. From 1975 to 2000 deaths decreased by just over a quarter (about 26%).

The message? Prevention works! 

Recent estimates show that the decrease in mortality can be divided between change in risk factors, screening, and improvements in treatment. Change in risk factors explains more than one third of the reduction in colorectal cancer mortality. Screening accounts for another half of the reduction, and treatment accounts for about one tenth.

We and others have advocated lifestyle changes and use of screening to prevent colorectal cancer. Projections suggest that with continued expansion of access to screening and improvements in risk factors the downwards trend will continue. Go to www.yourdiseaserisk.wustl.edu to learn more about your risk and things you can do to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

  • Get regular screening tests beginning at age 50 (or earlier if you have a family history.)
  • Be physically active for at least 30 minutes every day
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
  • Limit red meat to less than 3 servings a week
  • Take a multivitamin with folate every day
  • Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D
  • Take an aspirin every day (check with your doctor first)
More details on the decline in colorectal cancer can be found at: http://bit.ly/ccF9ma

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