Runners Race in Undies to Raise Awareness for Colon Cancer

Not your average race attire: hundreds of San Diegans trekked around De Anza Cove in Mission Bay in their skivvies Saturday on a mission to raise awareness for colon cancer.

The 2017 Undy Run/Walk, hosted by the Colon Cancer Alliance, is held nationally in select cities, and has raised more than $9 million since it began eight years ago. It's a light-hearted way to move past the sometimes difficult discussions surrounding colon cancer.

The event’s mission is to bring awareness to colorectal screening. It was fitting that the Undy Run/Walk took place this month, as March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

For Christy Pagel, a Stage 2 colon cancer survivor, the Undy Run/Walk is a great way to spread the word about cancer screenings.

“I was 39 years old, three kids, pretty healthy, started to have symptoms, didn’t think much of it,” she told NBC 7. “The colonoscopy is what found [the cancer] and I’m here today because I got tested. Early diagnosis is the road to recovery, for sure. Don’t ignore any kind of signs."

The run came just days after the American Cancer Society released results of a new study showing colorectal cancer rates are rising for much younger adults.

Compared to people born around 1950 -- those born in 1990 have double the risk of colon cancer, and quadruple the risk of developing rectal cancer.

The reasons why are unclear, but obesity is one likely factor.

Dr. Stonewall Anderson is President of the Board of Directors of C4, and a staff gastroenterologist at Kaiser Permanente. He says instances of colon cancer in young adults remains very small.

“The curve starts going up rapidly at age 50," said Anderson.

“The question is whether we need to start screening earlier,” he said. “But we still recommend screenings at 50.”

Anderson said the most recent national figures show there were 136,830 colon cancer cases diagnosed in 2014, and 50,310 colon cancer deaths. In 2013, there were 1,188 San Diegans who developed colon cancer; 428 San Diegans died of the disease.

“There’s at least 2 good screening methods” said Anderson. “You can do a colonoscopy, you have to do that every 10 years, or you can do the home fecal test and mail it in, you have to do that every year. They’re equally effective."

A portion of the proceeds from the Undy Run helps C4 grant funding to San Diego healthcare providers to increase screening rates. Colorectal cancer patients and survivors were granted free admission to the race.

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