DEAR ABBY: America is making steady progress in the war against colon cancer.

It's largely because of early detection and improved treatments. However, there's more to be done, and here is where I need your help.

Abby, colon cancer remains the third-leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States, with about 50,000 deaths expected this year.

The good news is that colon cancer is one of the two cancers (the other is cervical cancer) that can be prevented through regular screening.

Colon cancer tests allow doctors to find and remove growths (called "polyps") before they become cancerous, thereby preventing cancer.

Furthermore, these screening tests can also detect cancer at an earlier, more curable stage.

Unfortunately, many Americans still aren't getting lifesaving tests for colon cancer.

Only four out of 10 Americans get the recommended screening. Therefore, only 39 percent of the new cases are found at an early stage, when a cure is most possible.

A substantial number of the 50,000 deaths expected from colon cancer this year could have been avoided with wider use of proven screening tests.

As always, the American Cancer Society is here to offer help, including a free information kit to make it easy for people to talk to their doctor about colon cancer testing.

"" ELMER E. HUERTA, M.D., PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY

DEAR DR. HUERTA: Thank you for reminding me to remind my readers that March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness month.

We all know that testing saves lives, and it is my hope that because of your letter, Dear Abby readers will become more aware of the importance of getting tested for colon cancer and will talk to their doctor about having the tests done beginning at age 50.

Readers, for more information about this important subject, call (800) 227-2345 or visit anytime, day or night, and let the American Cancer Society help you stop colon cancer before it starts.

DEAR ABBY: My nephew is being married this summer in an outdoor garden wedding.

He casually mentioned that his future mother-in-law plans to purchase several large planters with live plants from a housewares store to use for the ceremony. She then intends to return the planters for a refund, saying, "They didn't work out."

I consider this to be totally unethical. My family agrees, but because the bride's family is paying most of the wedding costs, we feel it is inappropriate to speak up.

Now I'm beginning to wonder about the morals of the family into which my nephew is marrying. But since I'm only a relative, I can't say anything without starting trouble. What do you think?

"" DREADING THE WEDDING, ANAHEIM, CALIF.

DEAR DREADING THE WEDDING: There's a saying, "All that's needed for evil to flourish is for good people to say nothing." If you and the family have already made your opinions known, then you have done enough.

But while you're "wondering about the morals of the family into which your nephew is marrying," you should also wonder about the ethics and morals of a young man who would allow this to be done on one of the most sacred occasions in his life. Shame on him for not speaking up.

As to this practice being harmless, many companies have eliminated return policies because of it. So everyone gets hurt.

Dear Abby is written by , also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.