Preventing Colorectal Cancer in African-Americans: Early Detection is Key

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in the United States. It also happens to be one of the most preventable; however, the disease does not affect all people equally.

The National Cancer Institute states that African-Americans are more likely to develop CRC at a younger age and to be at a more advanced stage when diagnosed. Contributing to this reality is the fact that screening rates for colorectal cancer are lower for this population, especially in medically underserved communities.

Proper screening and diagnosis for CRC is key to reducing rates of colorectal cancer among African-Americans and improving outcomes for those diagnosed with the disease. Screening tests are done to look for the disease in people who don’t show any symptoms. Cancers that are found through screening tests are often smaller and at an earlier, more treatable stage. CRC is unique in that the best screening test, the colonoscopy, not only detects very small, early cancers, lesions or precancerous polyps, but during the screening test, the physician can remove these polyps and lesions, effectively preventing the disease from progressing any further.

Never miss another Cancer Talk blog!

Sign up to receive our monthly Cancer Talk e-newsletter.

Sign up!

Risk factors that increase the risk for colorectal cancer include an unhealthy diet, obesity, smoking, lack of exercise and a history of colorectal cancer in your family. Under current screening guidelines, everyone should have their first colonoscopy—the test that detects colorectal cancer—by age 50. African-Americans should talk to their doctors about their personal risk factors and whether they should begin screening at a younger age.

The Office of Community Outreach and Engagement at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a comprehensive colorectal cancer education program tailored for African-Americans and medically underserved communities. The program provides cancer education and awareness, action steps to decrease your risk of developing colorectal cancer and assistance in getting a colonoscopy. We provide this educational program and services to communities in all parts of Western New York and we host programs at churches, community centers, senior centers and various neighborhood venues.

If you would like to have a colorectal cancer education program presented for a community group, please contact Nikia Clark, Health Education Specialist in the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center at (716) 845-4888 or via email at

Catching cancer early is one of the best ways to limit its impact, and cancer screenings are the best way to increase the odds of finding the disease when it’s most curable. Roswell Park’s Cancer Screening Center has specific guidelines for who should receive certain types of cancer screenings.