Dozens of Groups Meet in Washington to Commit to Eliminating Colorectal Cancer

March 17, 2014 at 12:01 a.m. ET
Media Contacts: Anne-Louise Oliphant or Colleen Fogarty
American College of Gastroenterology
301-263-9000 or

Dozens of Groups Meet in Washington, DC to Commit to Eliminating
Colorectal Cancer as a Public Health Problem
New Data Show that Investing in Colorectal Cancer Screening Pays Off

American College of Gastroenterology embraces shared goal
of 80 percent colon cancer screening rate by 2018

Washington, DC, (March 17, 2014) – Dozens of groups dedicated to eliminating colorectal cancer as a major public health problem joined together at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to hear new data related to progress in reducing deaths from colorectal cancer and to launch an effort to increase the nation’s colorectal cancer screening rate to 80 percent by the year 2018. Colorectal cancer screening is proven to save lives, and new data from the American Cancer Society show that investing in colorectal cancer screening efforts is paying off.

New American Cancer Society data released at today’s event finds colon cancer incidence rates have dropped 30 percent in the U.S. in the last 10 years among adults 50 and older due to the widespread uptake of colonoscopy. The study, appearing early online in the American Cancer Society’s CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, finds the largest decrease has occurred in people over age 65, in whom the rate of decline has surged, with the decline accelerating from 3.6 percent per year during 2001-2008 to 7.2 percent per year during 2008-2010. The larger declines among these Medicare-eligible seniors likely reflect higher rates of screening because of universal insurance coverage. Colonoscopy use has almost tripled among adults ages 50 to 75, from 19 percent in 2000 to 55 percent in 2010.

The American College of Gastroenterology is joining with other members of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable (NCCRT, an organization co-founded by the American Cancer Society and the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to focus efforts over the next four years on dramatically increasing the U.S. colorectal cancer screening rates and increasing awareness of the potential for early detection and prevention of this cancer. Dozens of organizations have already pledged to embrace the shared goal of increasing national colorectal cancer screening rates to 80 percent by 2018.

Leaders of the effort started the day with a visit to the White House to brief public health officials on the effort. The White House has declared March National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

“Colorectal cancer screening represents one of our best lifesaving tools,” said Howard Koh, M.D., M.P.H., Assistant Secretary for Health for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Everyone should know there are several lifesaving screening tests – and the best test is the one that gets done.”

“There is energy and collective commitment around the goal of screening 80 percent of eligible adults by 2018. This is an achievable goal,”said Ronald J. Vender, MD, FACG, Past President of the American College of Gastroenterology in comments at the Press Club. “We are joining together today to save lives and to eliminate colorectal cancer as a major public health problem. This is an extraordinarily worthy goal, which I feel personally obligated to help fulfill,” he added.

“We can prevent a much larger proportion of suffering and deaths from colorectal cancer” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “We must do more to ensure men and women get screened for colorectal cancer according to the guidelines. Testing saves lives, but only if people are tested.”

Organizations represented at the launch included the American Cancer Society, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, AARP, Fight Colorectal Cancer, Walgreens, the American College of Gastroenterology, and the National Association of Community Health Centers.

This year alone, nearly 137,000 men and women will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer while another 50,000 will die from it. Increasing colorectal cancer screening rates to 80 percent could save numerous lives each year by helping detect cancers early and avoid preventable cancer-related deaths.

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States among men and women combined. Research shows colorectal cancer screening tests save lives, but too many adults have never been screened. Those less likely to get tested are Hispanics, people aged 50-64, men, American Indian or Alaska natives, those living in rural areas, and people with lower education and income.

About one in three adults in the U.S. who are aged 50 to 75 years have not been tested for colorectal cancer as recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, the American Cancer Society, and other key health organizations, according to a CDC report. There are several recommended screening test options, including: colonoscopy, stool tests (guaiac fecal occult blood test [FOBT] or fecal immunochemical test [FIT]), and flexible sigmoidoscopy.

Still, patients and providers do not always know about or consider all the available recommended screening test options, and currently, most health care providers and systems are not set up to help more people get tested.

Part of the 80 percent by 2018 goal is to leverage the energy of multiple and diverse committed partners in the community to empower patients, providers, community health centers, and health systems to deliver coordinated, quality colorectal cancer screening and follow-up care.

“This is one of the great combined public health commitments I have seen in my career and it represents the entire spectrum of organizations who have one goal: to increase colon cancer screening rates,” said Richard Wender, M.D., chair of the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable and chief cancer control officer for the American Cancer Society. “Each organization brings passion, competence, and creativity to our shared effort,” he said.

Wender also noted that the health care landscape is changing. Along with greater access to care and more assurances that colorectal cancer screening is a covered benefit under most insurance plans, the common barriers for getting screened are decreasing.

“Today is really about a celebration,” said Dr. Wender. “It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come in the last 10 years, of reduced cases of colon cancer, and of our collective commitment to saving thousands of more lives each and every year from this preventable and treatable cancer.”

Organizations interested in being a part of the 80 percent by 2018 effort should visit for details on how they can help.

About the American College of Gastroenterology

Founded in 1932, the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG) is an organization with an international membership of more than 12,000 individuals from 80 countries. The College’s vision is to be the pre-eminent professional organization that champions the evolving needs of clinicians in the delivery of high quality, evidence-based, and compassionate health care to gastroenterology patients. The mission of the College is to advance world-class care for patients with gastrointestinal disorders through excellence, innovation and advocacy in the areas of scientific investigation, education, prevention and treatment.

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