With the surprise and tragic news that the actor Chadwick Boseman had passed away of colon cancer at age 43, there’s been a spotlight on the disease as people look for information and answers. While colon cancer is a disease that many people have heard of, they may not know a great deal about it.
And that’s understandable.
Until recently, it hasn’t had as high a profile as some other chronic diseases. But despite this, it is a very prominent cancer. Around 145,000 people are diagnosed with it each year, and it is the third most common cancer in men and women in the U.S. And rates of the disease have been rising in those under age 50, though it isn’t yet clear why this is.
Overall, a healthy lifestyle has been shown to lower the risk of colon cancer, with over half of cases possibly preventable. Healthy behaviors that lower risk include: being physically active, staying at a healthy weight, eating whole grains, and limiting alcohol. Regular screening is most important, which can help to both prevent the disease and catch it in earlier stages when it’s more treatable. Most current guidelines recommended colon cancer screening start at age 45 – 50. In people at higher risk, such as those with a family history of the disease, screening may start at younger ages.
Health columns, guides, and other materials have been an important part of the Division of Public Health Sciences‘ ongoing outreach on colon cancer screening and prevention. Below is a selection.
This March, shortly before COVID-19 took over all our lives, Division Chief, Dr. Graham Colditz wrote about colon cancer screening and other important steps to lower risk in his For Your Health column The bottom line on preventing colon cancer, which also featured gastroenterologist Dr. Jean Wang. In his current column, also with Dr. Wang, Dr. Colditz highlights the importance of making plans to get back on track with any missed cancer screenings and other key care, even as the pandemic stretches on.
The 8 Ways to Prevent Colon Cancer guide provides easy-to-understand information about screening as well as simple tips for lowering risk. It is available in multiple versions: English, English large print, American Indians & Alaska Natives, Bosnian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
Other resources include:
Your Disease Risk – a web app where you can assess your risk of colon cancer and get a personalized plan for lowering risk. In total, Your Disease Risk has 17 tools, including 12 different types of cancer.
Questions About Colon Cancer Screening? We Have Some Answers – a blog post from last March’s Colorectal Cancer Awareness month addressing many of the practical details about screening and the various types of tests.
Quick Nutrition Tips for Lowering the Risk of Colon Cancer – another post from a previous March, focusing on key aspects of diet that could help prevent the disease.