DENVER, Co. – March 12, 2020 – The unpredictable and dynamic nature of COVID-19, also known as the “coronavirus,” is no match to the steadfast commitment of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s volunteers. While the virus and the elevated risk for those with compromised immune systems became a roadblock for the annual Day at the Capitol, cancer survivors and advocates managed to unite and make their voices heard -- this time through phone calls instead of gathering at the State Capitol – to urge lawmakers to make this “The Year of Cancer Prevention in Colorado.”
The Legislature has the opportunity to attain this goal by approving three important bills:
• H.B. 1103 - Coverage of Colorectal Cancer Screenings at 45: Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed among men and women in the U.S. and its rates are rising among younger people. This bill lowers the age for insurance companies to cover colorectal cancer screenings from 50 to 45, matching American Cancer Society screening guidelines, and consequently helping save lives and costs.
• H.B. 1340 - Comprehensive Indoor Tanning Restrictions: This bill prohibits tanning facility owners, operators or employees from allowing individuals under 18 years of age to use indoor tanning devices. It also imposes penalties for anyone who violates this measure. Laws like this have shown to reduce teen tanning and can help reduce the risk of skin cancer for our young people.
• H.B. 1001 - Tobacco 21 Legislation: Raising the minimum age of sale for all tobacco products to age 21 with strong retailer compliance and active enforcement including retailer licensing and penalties like license suspension and revocation for non-compliant retailers is part of a comprehensive strategy to reduce youth initiation. Nearly 95% of adults who smoke started smoking before the age of 21.
Colorectal cancer is now the fastest growing diagnosed cancer among young women in Colorado and the single biggest cancer killer of men under 50 nationally. Currently, Colorado law provides for preventive colorectal cancer screenings starting at age 50 for those at average risk, which fails to address a 51% increase in colorectal cancer incidence among those younger than 50 since 1994.
“H.B. 1103 is a simple and straightforward update to the existing law requiring insurance coverage for colorectal cancer screening starting at age 45”, said ACS CAN Government Relations Director R.J. Ours.
“By updating the law, we can save more lives by finding colorectal cancer early, when treatment is more likely to be successful and by detecting and removing precancerous polyps, which contributes to the prevention of colorectal cancer,” he added.
The chances of a 45-year-old today being diagnosed with colorectal cancer are the same as they were for a 50-year-old in the early 90s.
“I think there is a good likelihood that I could have developed colon cancer by the time I was 50 if I had not had my first colonoscopy at 46. I call myself a previvor, because any colon cancer was prevented when the polyp was removed during my first colonoscopy and I never had to fight the disease,” said Brian Eberle, an ACS CAN volunteer.
This year, around 1,920 Coloradans will be diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious and deadliest form of skin cancer. H.B. 1340 will impose comprehensive restrictions on the use of indoor tanning devices, the greatest avoidable known risk factor for skin cancer.
“We know that using indoor tanning devices before the age of 35 increases a person’s risk for melanoma by 59%. And we know that despite the dangers, young people fall in the trap of misleading advertising and health claims by the tanning industry. Protecting all individuals under 18 -- without exceptions -- will help prevent melanoma cases and deaths,” said Ours.
Meanwhile, smoking continues to be the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. ACS CAN volunteers urged lawmakers to put Colorado children first, approve H.B. 1001, and support evidence-based comprehensive strategies that have been proven to limit youth access and lower the use of tobacco products, including e-cigarettes.
“E-cigarettes aren't limited to just one type of person. The stereotype of the tobacco addicted slacker simply isn't true. It’s the tobacco addicted athlete, the straight-A student, the kid on student council, the skaters, the dancers and everyone in between,” said Ella Antonson, a junior at East High School and ACS CAN volunteer.
“While it's good Tobacco 21 has passed federally, raising the age to 21 won’t matter if stores aren’t held accountable when they sell to kids. We need to increase regulation for all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, to help save my generation from Big Tobacco,” said Antonson