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A recent letter writer questioned the aesthetic and communications value of a billboard that is part of the new campaign by the Minnesota Department of Health to encourage screening tests for colon cancer.
The “cover your butt” billboard is not intended to be offensive. Our goal is to promote the important message that getting a colonoscopy will help you “cover” yourself by ensuring that if you do have colon cancer you will find it early, when it is more treatable. The billboard is one of several being evaluated in a three-month campaign that is edgier than typical health messaging, and for good reason — colon cancer is no laughing matter.
The American Cancer Society estimates 2,220 Minnesotans will be diagnosed with colon cancer this year and that 770 will die from the disease. Most of these deaths could be prevented with regular screening. Sadly, about one third of Minnesotans between ages 50 and 75 are not up to date with colon cancer screening.
We are using various tactics — including some that rely on humor — to deliver this vital message, and we are pleased that many people have told us the billboards encouraged them to have discussions about colon cancer screening.
Incidentally, the model in the “cover your butt” photo was not paid. His grandfather died from colon cancer, and he volunteered to participate with the hope of preventing more unnecessary deaths.
Shelly Madigan, St. Paul
The writer works for the Minnesota Department of Health.
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