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U.S. Preventive Medicine: Knowing Risk Factors & Early Detection are Best Strategies for Colon Cancer Prevention

DALLAS, July 14 /PRNewswire/ -- Colon and rectal cancer (colorectal cancer) kill approximately 50,000 people annually and are second only to lung cancer in cancer deaths, yet preventive measures could save many of these lives, according to Boyd Lyles, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of U.S. Preventive Medicine(R), (, an organization specializing in prevention.

The best preventive strategies include alerting health care practitioners about family history, understanding other risk factors, following a healthy lifestyle and making sure to receive early detection tests regularly, he said. The cancer is particularly dangerous to those with risk factors for the disease.

Colon cancer can be a devastating disease, a fact that hits close to home for U.S. Preventive Medicine's top officer, Christopher Fey. It is one of the reasons he founded a company to focus completely on prevention.

"My father died of colon cancer when I was a year old. I never knew him. Growing up without a father is not easy," said Fey, U.S. Preventive Medicine(R) founder, Chairman and CEO. "The good news about colon cancer is that early detection can have a profound impact on both saving lives and long-term cost savings. In the United States, colonoscopy is one of the preferred screening options. I've had multiple optical colonoscopies, as well as the new virtual colonoscopy. Knowing one's risk factors coupled with early detection are keys to finding colon cancer early."

"Unfortunately our 'sick care' system is not designed to focus on prevention and we see too many people dying from this and other diseases that can be prevented. We must push prevention, early detection and chronic disease management to the forefront of the health care continuum. No one should have to die from colon cancer when we have colonoscopies and other preventive therapies to diagnose and treat such diseases early," Fey said.

Findings from CDC's 2000 National Health Interview Survey indicate that many people who are at risk for colorectal cancer are not being screened. Although screening rates are beginning to rise, they remain too low to achieve the objective for reducing mortality from colorectal cancer.

For the best outcome, adherence to regular screening protocols determined by an individual's physician should be carefully followed to detect early polyps and cancer, Dr. Lyles noted.

"As with all serious diseases, the earlier it is detected, the easier and more successful the treatment will be," Dr. Lyles said. "Also, a diet low in fat and high in fiber has been shown to decrease the likelihood of colon cancer and should be started as young as possible."

To find a cancer you first have to look for it, said Dr. Lyles.

"That means annual Fecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT), with a periodic fiberoptic colonoscopy, a CT colonography (virtual colonoscopy), or double contrast barium enema begun at the appropriate age (depending on other health factors and family history) is most appropriate. The flexible sigmoidoscopy, while helpful, does not examine the entire colon and does not replace the more extensive tests, such as the colonoscopy," Dr. Lyles said.

The FOBT test is very sensitive for the presence of blood but not very specific as to its source, which can include hemorrhoids, upper intestinal bleeding, polyps or cancer. An abnormal or positive FOBT will certainly result in a more advanced form of testing such as the colonoscopy without delay.

According to the National Institutes of Health, anything that increases a person's chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Risk factors for colorectal cancer include the following:

-- Being older than 50 years of age

-- Having a personal history of any of the following: colorectal cancer, polyps in the colon or rectum, cancer of the ovary, endometrium, or breast

-- Ulcerative colitis or Crohn disease

-- Having a parent, brother, sister, or child with colorectal cancer or polyps

-- Having certain hereditary conditions, such as familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) and hereditary nonpolyposis colon cancer (HNPCC; Lynch Syndrome). Obesity, lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol consumption also increase the risks for colon cancer.

Those with risk factors for colorectal cancer should talk to their doctor about which screening tests are best for them.

About U.S. Preventive Medicine(R):

U.S. Preventive Medicine(R), a privately owned health management company with clients in 23 states and two countries, is focused entirely on prevention. The company offers employers, government agencies and consumers proprietary products that improve health and productivity while reducing healthcare costs. Company products include: The Prevention Plan(TM), a groundbreaking personalized health and wellness program delivered online and telephonically; The Prevention Plan CM(TM), community-based chronic disease management programs customized for employers and government agencies to reduce healthcare costs; as well as The Prevention Plan Premium(TM), which offers high-tech, early detection services in partnership with a network of physician groups, hospitals and health systems.

SOURCE U.S. Preventive Medicine
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