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March is National Colorectal Cancer Screening Awareness Month

Melville, NY - Just two years ago, in 2000, March was officially declared National Colorectal Cancer Screening Awareness Month. But the seeds for this annual, month-long educational campaign were planted back in September 1998. That was when the first national colorectal cancer education campaign was launched at the White House with the support of then First Lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and television personality, Katie Couric, whose husband, Jay Monahan, had succumbed to colon cancer just eight months earlier.

The campaign was supported in thousands of communities across the country, often in collaboration with national and local partners. Olympus, the world leader in the manufacturing of gastrointestinal endoscopes, and a long time proponent of colorectal education, was honored to be present at this ground-breaking event, and has been actively involved ever since. Over the years, Olympus, with U.S. headquarters in Melville, NY, has joined with numerous national health organizations under the umbrella of the NCCRT (National Colorectal Cancer Round Table), in gaining acceptance for endoscopic screening and contributing to early diagnosis. Together, their efforts have ultimately saved tens of thousands of lives. The NCCRT consists of over 40 member organizations such as the American Cancer Society (ACS), American Gastroenterological Association (AGA), Cancer Research Foundation of America (CRFA), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Colorectal cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. It affects men and women equally, and risk increases with age. According to the latest (October 2001) statistics released by the ACS, 130,000 Americans were diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2000, resulting in 56,000 deaths. With the population of aging baby boomers on the rise, the incidence of colorectal cancer is also expected to rise.

Beginning at age 50, colorectal cancer screening can significantly reduce mortality, but because patients are generally uncomfortable talking about colorectal cancer with their doctors, they often remain silent about possible symptoms such as blood in stool and changes in bowel habits. As a result, the ACS estimates that only 35 to 40 percent of those over 50 have had any of the five tests recommended for colorectal cancer screening.

Most cases begin as benign, pre-cancerous polyps (grapelike growths on the lining of the colon). Surgically removing the polyps early can prevent the cancer. Screenings are not painful, and are often covered by Medicare and by many health insurers.

According to The Cancer Research Foundation of America, when detected and treated early, the five-year survival rate for colorectal cancer is 91 percent.

In an effort to better educate the Long Island community about colorectal cancer, Olympus sponsored a Colorectal Cancer Awareness Health Fair on the grounds of its U.S. corporate headquarters in Melville in September 1999. Over 400 people attended. The goal was to better inform the general public about the importance of early detection and inspire people that, "Not testing is not an option." Speakers at this day-long event included Couric (co-anchor of NBC's Today Show and co-founder of the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance), and Sidney Winawer, MD, from Memorial Sloan Kettering, who is a world-renowned expert in colorectal cancer treatment.

In March 2001, Olympus sponsored a week of employee colorectal education events and will be sponsoring a similar week of events in March 2002, with the hope that employees will share what they learn with family and friends who may be at risk.

Additionally, Olympus will be a 2002 sponsor of Molly McMaster's "Colossal Colon" month-long event this March. McMaster is a 25-year-old, colon cancer survivor and morning radio personality at Cool Rock 95.9 WCQL, in Glen Falls, NY. The "Colossal Colon" contest event is targeted to younger people from elementary school through their mid-30s and will culminate in a crawl through a huge, 40-foot-long fiberglass colon for 30 contest winners, with a chance to win prizes from one of the 30 polyps found on the wall of the colon. In 2003 and in future years, the "Colossal Colon" will travel throughout the United States as an educational tool to bring attention to colon cancer.

About Olympus
Olympus America Inc., is a distributor of a wide range of products and services that leverage its core expertise in optics and digital information technology for the health care, scientific, consumer, commercial, and industrial markets.

Headquartered in Melville, NY, but encompassing the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America in its scope, Olympus America is a subsidiary of Olympus Optical Co., Ltd, with worldwide revenues of over $4.0 billion for the year ended March 31, 2001.

Olympus has a long history of innovation beginning with the introduction of Japan's first microscope, and the first flexible endoscopic camera (called a gastrocamera), the latter of which led to the emergence of the field of endoscopy. This spirit of innovation coupled with the company's steadfast commitment to improving the health and wellness of millions of people who have diagnostic or treatment procedures performed with its products and services has propelled Olympus to the forefront of many of the markets it serves.

With an 80% market share, Olympus America is the largest full-line supplier of products and services for gastrointestinal and surgical endoscopy in the United States, while its parent company, Olympus Optical Co. Ltd., is the world leader. Recently, Olympus introduced the first adjustable colonoscope to facilitate colonoscopy screening and therapeutic treatment procedures.

The reputation of Olympus as a leader in quality and innovation grows out of a deeply ingrained tradition that places great value on establishing lasting relationships with physicians, pathologists, and other healthcare professionals involved in endoscopy, and clinical and research laboratories.