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Fifty-plus community leaders and local celebrities declare their support for colon-cancer screening awareness initiative


New campaign aims to reduce the death toll from colon cancer in Washington

SEATTLE — March 2008 — More than 50 Washington community leaders, elected officials, sports stars and local celebrities have joined forces with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center to help launch a multiyear awareness campaign — “Your colon. Your life. Your call.” — to increase colon-cancer screening rates and reduce deaths from the disease in Washington.

The campaign is chaired by Fred Brown, a retired bank executive and former Seattle Supersonics basketball star. The campaign will rely on permission-based e-mails to reach 60,000 state residents, as well as online newsletters, TV public-service announcements and online social-networking sites to:

* educate state residents about colon-cancer prevention and early detection;

* encourage people over 50 or at high risk to get screened and ask their friends and family to follow their example;

* reduce apprehension and embarrassment about colon-cancer screening;

* inform people about available screening resources; and

* encourage patient-physician communication to discuss colon-cancer risk factors, prevention strategies and screening options.

Supporting the campaign is a new Web site,, where people can go to calculate their risk factors for colon cancer and learn about the latest recommended screening options and guidelines, among other information.

All visitors to the site are encouraged to add their names to one of two online declarations — one for citizens and one for physicians — which indicates they have declared their support for colon-cancer screening by spreading the word with others, with the goal of creating a statewide viral colon-cancer awareness movement.

The Web site also features testimonials about the importance of colon-cancer screening from more than 50 community leaders, most of whom are over 50 — the age at which most people are encouraged to start colon-cancer screening. These advocates also support the campaign by declaring their commitment to spread the word about the importance of colon-cancer screening; each has agreed to contact at least five friends or family members, who are then encouraged to do the same.

The group includes Nobel laureate Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., president and director of the Hutchinson Center; former Washington Gov. Gary Locke; Seattle Symphony music director Gerard Schwarz; Washington State University president Elson Floyd; local TV and radio personalities Jean Enersen, Pat Cashman and Dave Ross; elected officials Phyllis Gutierrez Kenny, Lynn Kessler and Mary Skinner; and City of Seattle librarian Deborah Jacobs.

Brown, a recently retired banking executive, is a colon-cancer awareness advocate in large part because many of his friends have battled the disease.

“Often they just didn’t get annual physicals and routine screening tests,” said Brown, who seeks to overcome people’s reluctance about screening tests such as colonoscopy by meeting the subject head on.

“Many people are scared or don’t want certain areas examined. I explain there’s no pain, it’s a simple procedure, and 15 to 20 minutes later the whole thing is done,” he said. “I tell people it’s easy. The first time I had a colonoscopy, I went to sleep and the next thing I knew, I was joking with my doctors.”

Colon cancer is the third most-commonly diagnosed cancer and the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. An estimated 49,960 Americans, including 940 Washington state residents, will die of the disease this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

“The true tragedy of this figure is that most of these deaths could be prevented if people would take the opportunity to get regular colon-cancer screening,” said Scott Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Hutchinson Center’s Cancer Prevention Clinic. Ramsey, an internist and health-care economist, has been an outspoken advocate of mandatory insurance coverage for such screening, which goes into effect July 1 in Washington. Due to uneven insurance coverage, currently only 30 percent of Americans take advantage of colon-cancer screening.

Screening and early detection are crucial because people with colon cancer may be asymptomatic for many years, and precancerous lesions or polyps may take 10 years to transform from benign to malignant. If routine screening via colonoscopy or flexible sigmoidoscopy detects a precancerous polyp, it can be removed immediately.

Note for media only:
To arrange an interview with campaign chair Fred Brown or with cancer-prevention expert Scott Ramsey, M.D., Ph.D., please contact Kristen Woodward in Hutchinson Center media relations, (206) 667-5095 or High-resolution copies of various promotional campaign materials are available upon request (such as flyers, posters).


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