FRIDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Kentucky has one of the nation's highest death rates for colorectal cancer, surpassed only by Mississippi and Alaska, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not coincidentally, about a decade ago Kentucky also had the nation's second-worst screening rate for colon cancer.
But the Colon Cancer Prevention Project, based in Louisville, started in 2004 with a mission of turning around those statistics, said Claire Albright, the project's executive director.
A local gastroenterologist, Dr. Whitney Jones, founded the project after years of watching the incidence and death rates for colon cancer rise in his state, Albright said.
"He just got sick of so many people dying of a highly preventable disease," she said. "He had this vision that if more people were aware of the benefits of colon cancer screening, more people would not have to go through the horrible battle with the disease and so many die."
The project attacked the problem on multiple fronts, holding awareness events to raise people's consciousness and lobbying the state legislature to enact laws that would encourage colon cancer screening, Albright said.
Its success has impressed national leaders. Kentucky's screening rate has moved up to 23rd in the state rankings, although its death rate remains high.
"They have been moving quick, and their rates have been raising faster than I've ever seen," said Suzette Smith, the Prevent Cancer Foundation's director of partnerships for colorectal cancer screening.
Kentucky residents have a lot of elevated risk factors when it comes to colon cancer, Albright said. Rates for smoking, obesity and having a sedentary lifestyle are all high in the state.
Screening is the key to overcoming all that, as far as colon cancer is concerned, according to the project.
"Even if you have an unhealthy lifesty
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