Colon Cancer

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Colon Cancer

Each year in NYC, more than 1,200 adults die of colon cancer, making it the second-leading cause of cancer death in the city. Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. It is most often found in people ages 50 and older. Early detection can help prevent colon cancer from forming.

Risk Factors

You are more likely to get colon cancer if you:

  • Are 50 or older (the older you get, the higher your risk)
  • Had colon cancer or polyps previously, or if you have a family history of colon cancer
  • Have certain inherited risks, such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome
  • Do not exercise regularly
  • Have obesity
  • Drink alcohol. If you do drink, staying within low-risk drinking limits can help protect your health: no more than 14 drinks per week for men and 7 drinks per week for women.
  • Smoke

Know your risk factors and, where possible, try to address them. This could help you prevent cancer.


Routine screenings can help doctors find colon cancer early, when it is easier to treat.

Ask your provider about the benefits and risks of colon cancer screening.

  • If you are 50 or older, you should have a colonoscopy every 10 years.
  • If you are at increased risk for colon cancer based on family history or other health risks, talk to your doctor to find out what age is appropriate for you to begin screening and how often you should be tested.
  • Annual high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) is an alternative if you do not want or cannot have a colonoscopy.

A colonoscopy can remove polyps — small growths that may develop into cancer if left alone — before they turn into cancer. A colonoscopy is safe and usually painless. Most people should get a colonoscopy once every 10 years, as long as their test results are negative.

Talk to your doctor to schedule a screening, or call 311 for information on where you can get free or low-cost screenings.

Preparing for a Colonoscopy

Learn how to get ready for a colonoscopy with the graphic novella, Preparing for a Colonoscopy: Sandra’s Story. Read how Sandra prepares for a colonoscopy by consuming a liquid diet, avoiding opaque liquids and arranging for someone to pick her up after the surgery.

Additional Resources

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