Experts Advocate Early Screening for Colon Cancer

March 05, 2003
News Office: Maureen McInaney (415) 502-6397

More than 148,000 new cases of colorectal cancer are expected to be diagnosed this year and more than 56,000 people will die from this disease, making it second only to lung cancer as the leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

To help increase awareness of the disease and the preventive measures consumers can take, Dr. Julio García-Aguilar, a colorectal surgeon at UCSF Medical Center, will talk about "Screening for Colorectal Cancer" from noon to 1 p.m., Wednesday, March 12 as part of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

Garcia-Aguilar will speak at a free "Brown Bag Lecture" at the University of California, San Francisco campus in the Health Sciences West building, room 513. For more information, please call (415) 502-6397.

Colorectal cancer, which affects men and women at equally frequent rates, develops from precancerous growths or polyps in the colon or rectum. "Removing these polyps is the most effective way to prevent the development of cancer," Garcia-Aguilar said.

To screen for colorectal cancer, the following is recommended:

  • If you have no family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, a blood test for stool and a flexible sigmoidoscopy is recommended at age 50. Polyps bleed more than normal tissue and these tiny amounts of blood can be detected by a test called hemocult. A sigmoidoscopy examines the lower section of the colon, also called the sigmoid colon, and rectum.
  • If you have a family history of colorectal cancer or polyps, your doctor may suggest screening by colonoscopy, which examines your entire colon, before age 50.

To prevent colorectal cancer, Garcia-Aguilar recommends the following:

  • Eat a well balanced diet.
  • Reduce the fat you consume, particularly animal fat.
  • Increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Don't smoke.
  • Take calcium supplements. Researchers believe calcium decreases the growth rate of polyps.

More information about colorectal cancer is available on the UCSF Medical Center Web site.

For help finding a doctor, please contact our Physician Referral Service at (888) 689-UCSF or (888) 689-8273 or at