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Press Release # 014-06
Thursday, March 2, 2006

DOHMH - MEDIA CONTACT: (212) 788-5290; (212) 788-3058 (After Hours)
Sandra Mullin (
Eric Riley (


March Is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

NEW YORK CITY – March 2, 2006 – High rates of colon cancer – and low preventive screening rates – were discussed today at the Third Annual Colorectal Cancer Prevention and Control Summit. The Summit was organized by the Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition (C5), a partnership between the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC), the Greater New York Hospital Association, and the American Cancer Society (ACS), as well as local physicians, patients and community groups. Attendees gathered to outline strategies for increased prevention and awareness.

Each year, colon cancer kills approximately 1,500 people in New York City. Colonoscopies are recommended for all adults 50 years and older, and for high-risk people before age 50. However, only half of New Yorkers in this age group report ever having a test, leaving nearly 1 million adults at risk for undetected colon cancer. DOHMH has set a 2008 goal to have 60% percent of New Yorkers age 50+ screened for colon cancer – 20% more than in 2002.

“A colonoscopy can prevent cancer and save your life,” said DOHMH Commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “But only half of adults over age 50 have been screened, and too many New Yorkers are dying from colon cancer. The lowest colorectal cancer screening rates are among black New Yorkers, who also have the highest death rates. If you are over 50, get a colonoscopy. People with family history of the disease should talk to their doctor about getting screened even earlier. We will continue to work with HHC, the American Cancer Society and our community and medical partners to raise awareness and increase accessibility.”

HHC President Alan D. Aviles said, “Colonoscopy screening prevents cancer and our goal is to make this life-saving test available to more New Yorkers every year. As the result of our outreach campaign, we more than doubled the number of colonoscopies at HHC hospitals during each of the past two years and a greater percentage of cancers were identified in the early stages. This year, we are redoubling our efforts, especially reaching out to those at high risk for developing colon cancer. Our campaign materials are now available in 11 languages, and we are getting the word out in communities throughout the City.”

“Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in America behind lung cancer, and the leading cause among non-smokers,” said Dr. Harold Freeman, Co-Chair of the Citywide Colon Cancer Control Coalition. “It is estimated that 56,000 Americans will die from colorectal cancer this year. Widespread implementation of our screening guidelines could prevent 80 percent of colon cancer cases in New York City – and save more than a thousand lives a year. The test detects more than 95% of early colon cancer and is typically needed only once every 10 years. We are committed to expanding access to colonoscopy access to all New Yorkers, especially those without insurance.”

C5 Efforts to Increase Public Awareness of the Importance of Colonoscopies
  • • “Protect New York” is a priority project of the C5, designed to identify colorectal screening levels and promote screening among employees of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). The project will test, in a scientific fashion, the best ways to promote colorectal cancer awareness and improve screening rates in the FDNY. It will also set the stage for larger projects, extending the colorectal cancer prevention message to other government agencies and professionals in New York City.
  • • DOHMH is working with the American Cancer Society and, with support from City Council, has been funding colonoscopies for the uninsured at several hospitals, including Jacobi/NCB, Lincoln, Metropolitan, Woodhull, Harlem, Ralph Lauren, Mt. Sinai and St. Luke’s.
  • • The C5 Ambassador Program provides presentations by physicians specializing in colon cancer, as well as “best practices” follow-up training to increase screening, for health professionals at hospitals throughout the City. The objective is to dramatically increase the volume of colonoscopic screening at these sites.
  • • DOHMH, working with HHC and the Fund for Public Health in New York and with support from the New York Community Trust, has been implementing “Patient Navigator” programs at Lincoln, Woodhull and Elmhurst hospitals to assist patients in obtaining their colonoscopy.
  • • DOHMH has distributed Colon Cancer Screening Action kits, containing prevention guidelines and education materials for patients, to medical providers in four areas with high rates of colon cancer deaths: East and Central Harlem, the South Bronx, North & Central Brooklyn and Staten Island. The kit can be found at
  • • Increasing colon cancer screening and thereby reducing deaths from colon cancer is one of the 10 priorities of the Take Care New York health policy, which is available online at

If you’re 50 or older and your doctor hasn’t recommended colonoscopy, ask why. Colonoscopy is covered by most insurance. For more information about colon cancer, colon cancer screenings, and colonoscopy, New Yorkers should speak to their medical provider. For more information about colon cancer and where to get screened, visit or


Colon Cancer Information
Health Bulletin #04: Get Checked for Colon Cancer
Colon Cancer Screening Action kits
Colon Cancer Awareness
Take Care New York