Study confirms benefits of colon cancer screening (39929)
Credit: Damaso Reyes

A few years ago, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene launched an ad campaign entitled “Get Your Ass to the Doctor.” Now it seems like that was more than just good advice, according to a study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Thousands of patients were tracked for as long as two decades in the groundbreaking study. While doctors previously believed colonoscopies saved lives, there was little data on the invasive but necessary procedure. The study found that those who were screened were 53 percent less likely to die from colon cancer.

With many cancers, especially colon cancer, early detection is key. For many years, doctors have recommended screenings for those over 50, but getting people to undergo the procedure, in which a small, flexible camera is inserted into the rectum under anesthesia, has been difficult, especially in communities of color.

Blacks and other minorities have long been known to have worse outcomes when it comes to cancer survival, and many researchers feel part of the cause is a lack of early screening. Over 100,000 cases of colon cancer were reported last year and many of those were in people of color. If the findings of this study are accurate, more than half of the nearly 50,000 deaths each year from colon cancer could be prevented.

If you or someone you love is over 50, make sure they’re getting screened for colon cancer. The Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention, located at 1919 Madison Ave. (entrance on 124th Street), offers free and low-cost screenings. For more information, call (212) 987-1777 or visit You can also call 311 to find a provider closer to you.