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March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month


Last updated 2/15/2007 at Noon

Colorectal cancer, which includes cancers of the colon and rectum, is the third most common cancer in the United States. The American Cancer Society estimates that over 150,000 new cases of colorectal cancers will be diagnosed in 2007.

The good news is that deaths from colorectal cancer are declining due to increased awareness and screenings help to catch the disease in its earliest and most curable stages, according to Stephen Shibata, MD, director of the gastrointestinal oncology program at City of Hope. “In addition to screening,” he says, “it’s important to know risk factors and make healthy lifestyle choices.”

Risk factors associated with colorectal cancer include:

• Personal history of colorectal cancer, bowel disease or polyps

• Family history of colorectal cancer

• Being older than 50 years of age

• Being overweight

• A diet of mostly high-fat foods

• Smoking and heavy use of alcohol

Shibata suggests making lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer, including exercising regularly; eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains; limiting the consumption of high-fat foods; not smoking; and moderating alcohol intake.

Some studies also suggest that taking supplements containing folic acid, folate or calcium might reduce colorectal cancer risk.

Screening and knowing risk factors for colorectal cancer is important since symptoms of the disease often do not appear until after the disease has advanced. Although colorectal cancer may not necessarily be the case, contact a physician if any of the following occurs:

• A change in bowel habits that lasts for more than a few days

• Bleeding from the rectum

• Blood in the stool

• Cramping or gnawing stomach pains

• Continual fatigue and weakness

For more information about colorectal cancer screening, treatment and research, contact City of Hope at 1-800-826-HOPE or visit


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