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Colon Cancer

Colon cancer (also called colorectal cancer) is the second-leading cause of cancer death in New York City, after lung cancer. It is most often found in people aged 50 and older.

Each year in NYC, 1,200 adults die from colon cancer and more than 3,500 New Yorkers are newly diagnosed. Colon cancer affects men and women of all racial and ethnic groups. In 2016, Black New Yorkers had a higher death rate (17.9 deaths per 100,000 people) than Whites (15.2), Latinos (10.4) and Asian/Pacific Islanders (8.8).

Screening 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
  • Have ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease
  • Do not exercise regularly
  • Have obesity
  • Drink alcohol
  • Smoke

Know your risk factors and, where possible, try to address them.

Reduce Your Risk

To lower your risk of colon cancer:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat fewer processed meats, such as hot dogs and deli meats
  • If you smoke, make a plan to quit
  • Exercise regularly
  • Reduce the amount and how often you drink alcohol


Routine screenings can prevent colon cancer and help your doctors find it earlier, 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.

  • An annual stool (feces) test, such as high-sensitivity fecal occult blood testing, is an option if you do not want or cannot have a colonoscopy.
    • A colonoscopy will still be necessary for follow-up if your stool test result is abnormal.

  • If you are at increased risk for colon cancer based on family history or other health risks, talk to your health care provider to find out what age is appropriate for you to begin screening and how often you should be tested.

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 who choose this screening test 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.


Most insurance plans cover cancer preventive services, such as colonoscopy, without a copay. If you do not have insurance, you may be eligible to sign up for low- or no-cost coverage. You can also get free in-person assistance signing up for a plan.

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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