Health Department Launches Media Campaign To Urge New Yorkers Age 50 and Older To Get Screened For Colon Cancer

Every year, more than 1,200 New York City residents die from colorectal cancer, making it the city’s second deadliest cancer

Colon cancer is highly preventable with routine screenings

April 28, 2017 – The Health Department today announced “Detect + Prevent,” a new media campaign urging New Yorkers who are 50 and older to get screened for colon cancer. Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in New York City; every year more than 1,200 residents die from the disease. It is also one of the most treatable cancers when detected early.

Colon cancer The Health Department recommends that average-risk New Yorkers first get screened for colon cancer at the age of 50. An adult over 50 whose colonoscopy reveals an early stage of colon cancer has a five-year survival rate of 92 percent. In contrast, an adult whose colonoscopy reveals the most advanced stage of colon cancer has a five-year survival rate of 11 percent. In New York City, adults ages 65 years and older get screened at higher rates than adults between 50 and 64 years of age (75 percent versus 65 percent, respectively). The media campaign runs today through June in newspapers and on bus shelters in six neighborhoods with high health needs and colon cancer mortality rates – Central Harlem, East Harlem, East New York, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Port Richmond and Fordham/Bronx Park – as well as radio and social media. The campaign aims to increase awareness of the importance of colonoscopies and to increase citywide colon cancer screening rates.

“Regular screenings are the best way to catch colon cancer early, when it’s more treatable. Don’t delay – if you are 50 or older, schedule a colonoscopy today,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “The Health Department is invested in educating all New Yorkers about early detection for colon cancer. I am encouraged by our recent data, which show no racial disparities among those who get a colonoscopy. We look forward to maintaining this impressive trend and increasing our citywide screening rate.”

The citywide colon cancer screening rate went up from 42 percent in 2003 to 70 percent in 2015, representing a 68 percent increase. In 2015, there were no racial disparities in screening rates between White, Black, Asian or Latino New Yorkers. While this is a significant achievement, the citywide screening rate has plateaued at about 70 percent between 2011 and 2015.

Colon cancer

Colonoscopies can detect precancerous polyps – abnormal growths in the colon or rectum – which can be removed before they turn life-threatening. A colonoscopy is usually needed once every 10 years if test results are normal at age 50. Being 50 or older, having a personal or family history of colon cancer, smoking or being overweight or obese increases the risk for colon cancer.

“It is critical that all Brooklynites over 50 years of age get screened for colon cancer,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “The science clearly shows that this disease is highly preventable, and if you have a family history of colon cancer, that’s even more of a reason to go get that screening early. Neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York have high mortality rates from this disease, but that can be changed with eating nutritious foods, regular screenings, and staying away from tobacco products. We are the keepers of our own bodies, so let’s move forward as we build a healthy and strong Brooklyn. Don’t delay, and get that screening.”

“With colorectal cancer as the second leading cause of cancer death in New York City, the ‘Detect + Prevent’ media campaign will go to great lengths to create further awareness about colon cancer and to encourage New Yorkers, especially those aged 50 and older, to get screened regularly for this disease," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "I commend the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for putting together this campaign that encourages New Yorkers to be proactive about their health and wellness.” 

To reduce the risk of colon cancer, New Yorkers should:

  • Get screened beginning at age 50
    • If there is an increased risk for colon cancer based on family history or other health problems, talk to a doctor to see what age is appropriate to start screening
  • Maintain a healthy weight by eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly
  • Take steps to quit smoking

For more information on where to go for colon cancer screening or if you are uninsured and would like assistance to get screened, call 311, talk to your doctor, or search “colonoscopy” on nyc.gov/health.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller / Stephanie Buhle, (347) 396-4177
PressOffice@health.nyc.gov