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U.S. Adults Still Not Colon Cancer-Savvy

More are familiar with American Idol than their risk for the disease, survey finds

THURSDAY, March 10, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- More older Americans (38 percent) know the name of a judge on "American Idol" than know they're at risk for colorectal cancer (34 percent), according to an American Cancer Society survey released Thursday.

Ignorance and stigma continue to hold back discussion of the third leading cancer killer of both men and women in the United States, according to the ACS.

The national survey of more than 1,000 adults aged 48 and older found that colorectal cancer tops religion and politics as issues Americans would be uncomfortable discussing with someone they've just met. While nearly half (49 percent) of respondents said they would shy away from discussing colorectal cancer with a new acquaintance, just a quarter could say the same about discussing either religion (27 percent) or politics (25 percent).

The survey was released s part of an awareness and public education campaign to coincide with National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Other survey findings:

  • Women aged 50 and older are less likely than men (30 percent vs. 40 percent) to believe they're at risk for colorectal cancer, even though both genders have an equal risk.
  • 70 percent of adults aged 50 and older believe getting tested for colorectal cancer can greatly reduce their risk and another 22 percent believe it makes some difference. Yet only 44 percent of those 50 and older knew people should start getting tested for the disease at age 50.
  • Older adults in the northeastern United States are much more likely to believe they're at risk for colorectal cancer than those living in the Midwest, South or West.

"As Simon Cowell might say: 'These results are abysmal,' " Dr. Stephen F. Sener, national volunteer president of the American Cancer Society, said in a prepared statement. "An estimated 145,290 Americans will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2005, and 56,290 will die of the disease. The fact that two out of three Americans aged 50 and over don't know they need to be tested should serve as a wake-up call," he said.

"We encourage all Americans 50 and over to talk to their doctors about screening and find out which test is best for them, for the simple reason that testing can save lives," Sener said. "These tests have shown to be very effective at detecting cancer early, when it has a 90 percent survival rate, and can even prevent the disease by removing non-cancerous growths called polyps before they turn cancerous. Despite that potential, fewer than 39 percent of colorectal cancers are caught early."

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about colorectal cancer.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, March 10, 2005
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