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The Prevalence of Colon Cancer Among African Americans

Colorectal cancer is the second deadliest form of cancer in men and women, yet the most preventable. African Americans have the highest colorectal cancer incidence and mortality rates of all racial groups in the United States.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that there are nearly 42 million African Americans living in the country, comprising about 13 percent of the total population.

Of that population, the U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group estimates that approximately 18,000 African American men and women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2013—and in just that same year, 6,850 of them will die from it.

Research from the American Cancer Society shows the death rates for colorectal cancer are about 45 percent higher in African Americans than in Caucasians, and although incidence and mortality rates continue to decrease in both ethnicities, the rates are still higher and declines have been slower among African Americans. The reasons for this are not yet understood.

With staggering numbers like these, education about colorectal cancer, prevention methods and screenings are imperative to saving lives. As part of Colon Cancer Awareness Month, we at Exact Sciences encourage you to do your part to spread the word about colon cancer prevention and to get screened.

The American Cancer Society recommends that everyone age 50 and older get screened for colon cancer. However, because African Americans are considered high risk for this type of cancer, some groups, like the American College of Gastroenterology, recommend that screening start at age 45.

It’s important to keep in mind that the recommended age to be screened may vary depending on several factors, including family history, age, and ethnicity, among others. Make sure check with your primary care physician to determine when screening is right for you. 

If you’re still hesitant, check out Dr. Barry Berger’s blog post from last month. He debunks some common myths about colon cancer, offering reassurance to those who are uncertain.

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