Along with Governor Mike Parson, Missouri health officials and advocates gathered this week to raise awareness of colorectal cancer. Governor Parson proclaimed March 2023 as Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in Missouri.

Colorectal cancer refers to cancer that begins in either the colon or rectum. In Missouri, colorectal cancer has the second highest incidence and mortality rate among cancers for men and women combined. Around 90 percent of new colorectal cancer cases occur in people who are 50 or older. However, according to the American Cancer Society, the rate of younger Americans being diagnosed with these cancers has been increasing in recent years.

“Prevention is key. We can protect ourselves from developing colorectal cancer through regular screening and prevention measures,” said Dr. Heidi Miller, chief medical officer with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “It is now recommended to start screening at age 45 (or earlier if high personal risk or family history) via colonoscopies or stool cards. Screening tests can help prevent cancer altogether or detect cancer early, allowing for better outcomes with early treatment.”

Routine screening is the most effective way to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. As many as one in three eligible Americans are not up-to-date on their screenings. Individuals are encouraged to talk with their healthcare provider to determine the screening test that is most appropriate for them.

Other ways to reduce one’s risk of colorectal cancer, and many other chronic diseases, include maintaining a healthy diet with lots of vegetables, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco and increasing physical activity.