Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the world. The majority of CRCs progress through the adenoma-carcinoma sequence, presenting opportunities to remove precursor lesions and prevent cancer or to identify CRC in its earliest, curable stages. There are also several modifiable dietary, lifestyle, and environmental risk factors for CRC. When detected in the preclinical stages, CRC tends to be localized and often curable with surgical resection with an excellent prognosis.
CRC screening efforts are directed towards the detection of early stage colorectal cancer and removal of pre-neoplastic lesions. There are several screening modalities that are effective and cost-effective, such as fecal immunochemical test, flexible sigmoidoscopy, CT colonography, and colonoscopy. In the last decade, studies have highlighted a worrisome increase in CRC incidence among younger individuals. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted CRC screening programs and created a backlog of endoscopy procedures across the world.
Now more than ever is the need to understand the recent epidemiologic trends and risk factors for CRC as well as to resume and optimize our CRC screening efforts. It is for these reasons that the World Gastroenterology Organisation selected Colorectal Cancer Prevention as the focus of the 2022 World Digestive Health Day campaign.
It is important for the world to understand and mitigate the modifiable dietary, lifestyle, and environmental factors that contribute to colorectal cancer. We must develop, enhance, and get CRC screening programs back on track to reduce the global burden of CRC.
By increasing worldwide awareness of the risk factors of CRC, benefits of screening, and practical tools to implement CRC screening programs, we can affect overall human health across the globe, in particular among low- and middle-resource countries. The WGO global network of WGO member societies, partners, and sponsors is ideal for raising the level of awareness.
WGO will seek to raise awareness of the importance of CRC screening through its annual public advocacy and awareness campaign, World Digestive Health Day. WDHD is celebrated each year on 29 May with associated events, activities, and initiatives continuing throughout and beyond the campaign year. WDHD will provide gastroenterologists, primary care providers, their patients, and the lay public with an understanding of the latest basic and clinical research in the risk factors and epidemiology of CRC. This campaign will endeavor to inform physicians, pharmacists, allied health professionals, healthcare payers, and the public of the importance of reducing risk factors and role of CRC screening.
Through a multi-faceted campaign, WGO will provide simple messages for the general public in order to assist them in understanding risk factors and screening efforts for CRC. Secondly, WGO will develop information for healthcare professionals with an emphasis on low-resource regions. Multiple informational pieces are planned and will be distributed worldwide for patients and healthcare professionals. Through the WDHD 2022 campaign, WGO looks forward to providing a better understanding and recognition of CRC prevention. Your participation, through educating the public about the burden of CRC, encouraging participation in screening programs, and promoting a healthy lifestyle, is crucial for the success of this campaign.
Aasma Shaukat, MD, MPH
Michal Kaminski, MD, PhD