BOISE—With the number of people under 40 in Idaho affected by colon cancer on the rise, St. Luke’s is joining a groundbreaking research study, helped with funds from the Brian Olson Memorial Golf Tournament held Sept. 24
The tournament is held in memory of Brian Olson, who died in 1999 from colorectal cancer at age 39. He left behind a heartbroken wife and two young sons, along with devastated colleagues at Hewlett-Packard. To honor Olson, they joined together to start the tournament, which is now in its 20th year at Falcon Crest Golf Club in Kuna.
A total of $34,000 was raised at this year’s tournament. The funds will go to support a new research study St. Luke’s joined, called the Dana-Farber OPTIMISTIC project, the largest coordinated effort in the world to discover the underlying causes behind increased colorectal cancer rates in younger people.
“Most studies have shown that no more than 25% of cases of young colorectal cancer are due to an inherited genetic abnormality. Therefore, we must conclude it’s something in the environment,” said Dr. Dan Zuckerman, Executive Medical Director for St. Luke’s Cancer Institute. “The emerging hypothesis is that something is altering people’s microbiomes, their gut bacteria, in a way that’s promoting carcinogenesis in the colon and rectum. Research seeks to learn what’s affecting the microbiome, which bacteria are emerging as pathogenic and what therapeutic measures can be taken to restore the gut to a healthy microbiome.”
More than 17,000 people around the world, and in Idaho, will have blood, stool and tumor samples examined. Funds from the Brian Olson Memorial will cover the cost of study kits for local patients.
“The opportunity for our small community to be part of this global effort to solve the epidemic of colon and rectal cancers is exciting,” said Rudy Pinon, volunteer event director. “This study, along with the distribution of early detection kits and providing financial assistance for colonoscopies, makes a tangible difference in preventing this disease from devastating another family. That’s what this tournament is all about and that’s what Brian would have wanted.”
Colon cancer is one of the most-deadly forms of cancers. In Idaho, 244 people died and 646 were diagnosed with the disease in 2016, the most recent year for official statistics. Those numbers are holding steady for people 50 and older, in large part due to screening. Unfortunately, just 60% of adults get the critical test, and even fewer do in Idaho. The state ranks near the bottom for screening and top for late-stage colon cancer diagnosis.
A colonoscopy is recommended every ten years starting at age 50 and up to 75, unless you’re at higher risk or have a family health history of colon cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends screenings begin five years earlier, at 45.
More information on colon cancer screening can be found at: stlukesonline.org.