Apparently, colon health is on everyone's minds today. First, it was the story about the anti hot dog ads that are popping up around the country with the goal of raising awareness about colon and colorectal cancer. If that story got you thinking about your own colon health, you're not alone. New data released this week has been touting the benefits of early colorectal screening to prevent colon and colorectal cancers.


The New England Journal of Medicine recently reported that in patients tracked for as long as 20 years, the death rate from colorectal cancer was reduced by 53 percent in those who underwent early screening and had precancerous polyps removed.


According to a statement released by the American College of Physicians, "[o]nly about 60 percent of American adults aged 50 and older get screened, even though the effectiveness of colorectal cancer screening in reducing deaths is supported by the available evidence."  The group recommends colon cancer screening for most adults beginning at age 50, while those with a family history of colon and colorectal cancers should get screened starting around age 40.  


Genetics plays a large role in assessing the risk factors for colon and colorectal cancers. But as we saw in the hot dog story, diet is also a factor. Other risk factors for colon cancer include age, race — African Americans have highest rates in U.S. — and a history of chronic conditions such as polyps or Crohn's disease. Cigarette smoking, obesity and having a sedentary lifestyle also raise your risk.  


If left untreated, colorectal cancer is a deadly disease. It's currently the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women. But it is also easy to prevent and cure — if it is caught early enough. The problem is that it is a stealthy disease, often not displaying any noticeable symptoms until it is too far along. Health experts agree that if you wait for symptoms for colon or colorectal cancer, you’ve often waited too long.


Hence the push for early screening. If you're over 50, it's time to make that appointment. This is one call that could really save your life.

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