New York State Department of Health Recognizes Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month In March

Colorectal Cancer is One of the Most Common Cancers and the Second Leading Cause of Cancer Deaths for Adults in New York

Regular Colorectal Cancer Screening Can Improve Health Outcomes

ALBANY, N.Y. (March 8, 2023) – The New York State Department of Health is encouraging all adults age 45 and older to get screened for colorectal cancer in recognition of Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Almost 3,000 New Yorkers die from the disease every year, according to the New York State Cancer Registry. Regular testing can improve survival rates in some cases by detecting and removing polyps from the colon or rectum before they become cancerous.

"Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in New York, but this type of cancer can be treated effectively when found early," Acting State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Regular screenings that can detect polyps before they become cancerous is critical to preventing cancer from developing and getting treatment that can save lives."

Although 90% of colorectal cancer cases occur in people ages 50 and older, anyone can get colorectal cancer. Rates of colorectal cancer have been increasing in people under age 50, and a new study by the American Cancer Society projects that 13% of new colorectal cancers in 2023 will be diagnosed in individuals younger than age 50.

The risk factors for developing colorectal cancer include:

  • Increasing age.
  • Family history or hereditary conditions. People with close relatives, such as parents, siblings, or children, who have had colorectal cancer are at increased risk. People with certain inherited diseases, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer, are more likely to get colorectal cancer.
  • Individuals with a history of colorectal cancer, intestinal polyps, or inflammatory bowel disease are at greater risk.
  • Obesity.
  • An inactive lifestyle.
  • Diets high in red and processed meats, such as bacon, sausage, and luncheon meat, and low in vegetables and fruit may be at a higher risk.
  • Long-term smoking and heavy alcohol consumption may increase the risk.

It is possible to have colorectal cancer and not know it because in the early stages, it may not cause symptoms, or symptoms may be mistaken for something else. People with these symptoms should see their health care provider:

  • Blood in or on stool after bowel movements.
  • Aches, pains, or cramps in the stomach that do not go away.
  • Change in bowel movement habits, either constipation or diarrhea.
  • Unexplained weight loss.

A Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS) conducted by the Department found that in 2020, an estimated 76.6% of New York adults aged 50 to 75 received a colorectal cancer screening as advised. Colorectal cancer screenings should begin at age 45.

There are several different screening options, including at-home stool tests, flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colonography, which is a virtual colonoscopy. To learn more about these options, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Colorectal Cancer Screening Tests website.

In an effort to raise the colorectal cancer screening rate to 80% statewide, the Department works closely with the NYS Cancer Consortium's Colorectal Cancer Action Team and other partners across New York.

Additionally, the Department manages community Cancer Services Programs (CSP), which offer free colorectal cancer testing and diagnostic services for those who are eligible. CSP also offer referrals for treatment and support. Every county in the State, as well all New York City boroughs, have a CSP. To find the nearest CSP, visit here or call 1-866-442-CANCER (1-866-442-2262).

People in need of treatment for colorectal cancer may be eligible to receive coverage through the New York State Medicaid Cancer Treatment Program (NYS MCTP). Eligibility details are available here on the NYS MCTP website.

More information about colorectal cancer, including cancer screening, is available on the Department's colorectal cancer websites here and here, and on the American Cancer Society website.