Black History Month: Earlier Screenings Recommended for African Americans

February is Black History Month, a time to celebrate and reflect upon the contributions of the many great African Americans throughout our nation’s history. From Harriet Tubman’s courageous journey as a conductor in the Underground Railroad to Martin Luther King Jr.’s uplifting “I Have A Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial, these stories encourage and inspire us to work together toward a brighter future for ourselves, our children and our country.

If you are of African American descent, one step you can take during Black History Month to give yourself the best future possible is to schedule your screening colonoscopy. Colon cancer is the third most common form of cancer among men and women in the United States, and African Americans have the highest rate of colon cancer and mortality among any ethnicity in the country. Because of this increased risk, it is recommended that African Americans begin screening at the age of 45.

In addition to regular screening, you can reduce your risk of colon cancer by becoming familiar with the risk factors of this disease. They include:

  • Age
  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • High-fat diet
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Use of alcohol or tobacco products
  • Inflammatory bowel disease involving the colon
  • Personal history of colon polyps
  • Family history of colon polyps or colon cancer

If you have a personal history of polyps or a family history of polyps or colon cancer, you may need to begin screening before the age of 45. However, you should never assume that a clean family history is a reason not to get screened. Approximately 5 to 10 percent of colon cancer cases are hereditary, but the vast majority of them occur independently, meaning the individual had no family history of the disease (Source:

Colon cancer is more than 90 percent treatable when discovered in its early stages, so it is absolutely vital to get screened early and regularly. Let February be the month that you schedule your screening colonoscopy or encourage a loved one to schedule theirs. It is a decision that will have a profound impact on your health and your future, and it all starts with a simple phone call!