Health Department Campaign Urges Asian New Yorkers to Get Screened for Colon Cancer

New media campaign in English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean and Bengali will run in newspapers, on social media, in bus shelters as well as other locations

Colon cancer is the second leading cancer killer in New York City; in 2016, more than 1,300 New Yorkers died from colon cancer

Asian New Yorkers have lower screening rates than other race and ethnicity groups

Asian man is smiling at the camera. Text reads 'I'm alive because I wasn't afraid to ask.'

June 19, 2019 — Today the Health Department announced a new media campaign to encourage Asian New Yorkers to get screened for colon cancer. In 2016, more than 1,300 New Yorkers died from colon cancer, making it the second leading cause of cancer deaths. Screening can prevent colon cancer or detect it early when it is easier to treat. The campaign will be in English, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Korean and Bengali and run in newspapers, on social media, on bus shelters, in hair salons, barber shops, delis and corner stores of communities with high proportions of Asian New Yorkers. The Health Department encourages New Yorkers ages 50 and older to discuss screening options with their health care providers and to get screened for colon cancer.

Asian New Yorkers have significantly lower rates of colon cancer screening by colonoscopy than other race and ethnicity groups in New York City. From 2015 to 2017, the prevalence of timely colonoscopy (once within the past 10 years) among Asian New Yorkers ages 50 and older was 64%, which was lower than that of White, Black, and Latino New Yorkers (69%, 71%, and 72%, respectively). The National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable, a partnership of more than 100 organizations concerned with colorectal cancer screening and prevention, recommends a target of 80% screened in every community.

“New Yorkers, when it comes to colon cancer screening, don’t be afraid to ask,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “We’ve made tremendous progress in increasing colon cancer screening rates over the past two decades, but there are still gaps that need to be addressed. Colon cancer is treatable if you find it early. I hope this media campaign encourages Asian New Yorkers to get screened for colon cancer.”

A woman wearing a hijab is smiling at the camera. Text reads 'I'm alive because I wasn't afraid to ask.'

The Health Department recommends that New Yorkers with an average-risk of developing colon cancer first get screened beginning at age 50. Screening options include a colonoscopy test every 10 years or stool-based tests every one or three years for adults. Colonoscopies can detect cancer early and can also remove polyps in the colon and rectum to prevent them from developing into cancer. Stool-based tests are an effective alternative screening method for people who do not want or cannot have a colonoscopy. Stool-based tests are done at home with follow-up lab analysis to detect signs in stool samples that may indicate cancer. If the test result is abnormal, then a follow-up colonoscopy is needed.

Being 50 or older, having a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or certain types of colon polyps, having ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease, and having certain other inherited risks (such as familial adenomatous polyposis or Lynch syndrome) all increase the risk for colon cancer. Other risk factors include smoking, excess drinking, or having obesity. An adult who has an early stage of colon cancer has a five-year survival rate of 90%. In contrast, an adult who has the most advanced stage of colon cancer has a five-year survival rate of 14%.

“Colon cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths among Asian American women and men. Small cancers or precancerous polyps do not usually cause any symptoms. Screening tests can find and remove these, preventing many cancers,” said Charles B. Wang Community Health Center Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Ady Oster. “However, Asian Americans are less likely to have colon cancer screening than other ethnic groups. Everyone should be screened for colon cancer beginning at age 50. People with a close relative diagnosed at an early age may need to begin earlier. Talk to your health care provider about colon cancer screening tests.”

“Asian Americans are at risk for colon cancer, which can be prevented by early screening,” said Mount Sinai Beth Israel Medical Director of Asian Services Center Dr. Wan Ling Lam. “We encourage everyone to discuss with their doctors about which screening test is right for them and when.”

“The low-income Bangladeshi community is one of the most underserved communities in New York,” said Bangladeshi American Community Development & Youth Services Executive Director Rajju Malla Dhakal. “Their access to information is limited with little English language proficiency among the adult population, particularly women. Therefore, it is crucial that important information such as colorectal screening is culturally and linguistically accessible — it can save many precious lives.”

“We welcome this new media campaign as it will be immensely helpful in raising awareness and motivating the Asian community to seek screening,” said South Asian Council for Social Services Executive Director Sudha Acharya.

“Colorectal cancer is one of the most common cancers in Korean Americans and screening is the only way to detect early stage colorectal cancer,” said Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, Inc. Director of Public Health & Research Center Sara Soonski Kim. “I’m thankful the New York City Health Department is targeting Asian New Yorkers with this educational media campaign.”

In 2003 the Health Department convened the Citywide Colorectal Cancer Control Coalition (C5), a group of public health professionals, clinicians, non-profit partners and researchers that advises on colorectal cancer prevention to increase colon cancer screening rates. New York City improved colon cancer prevention from 2003 through 2017, increasing the overall colonoscopy rate from 42% to 70%.

The Health Department’s Community Cares Project (CCP) connects uninsured patients to free colonoscopy screenings when referred by primary care sites. Since August 2013, more than 3,000 uninsured New Yorkers have completed colonoscopy screenings through CCP. Uninsured New York City residents who would like to get a free colonoscopy should contact a CCP primary care provider (PDF).

Last year, the Health Department published an illustrated novella about the preparation process and procedure for colonoscopies. The novella was distributed in doctors’ offices across the city and is available in English (PDF), Spanish (PDF), Haitian Creole (PDF), Bengali (PDF), Simplified (PDF) and Traditional Chinese (PDF), Russian (PDF), Yiddish (PDF) and French (PDF).

Recommendations for all New Yorkers

Get screened beginning at age 50. You may need to start earlier if you are at increased risk.

  • Discuss screening with your health care provider.
  • Ask about screening options, such as a colonoscopy or a stool-based test.
  • 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.

To reduce the risk of colon cancer:

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

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 or search “colon cancer” on



MEDIA CONTACT: Patrick Gallahue/Stephanie Buhle: (347) 396-4177