Colon cancer screening saves lives

Colonoscopies, beginning at age 50, are considered the gold standard in colon cancer screening.

By: New York Times | New York | Published: June 7, 2014 1:10 am

Widespread screening for colorectal cancer has helped prevent an estimated half-million cases of the disease since the mid- 1970s, a new study suggests.

At a time when screening for many kinds of cancer is being questioned, the findings underscore the importance of screening for colorectal cancer in saving lives, said the senior author of the study, Dr James Yu, an assistant professor of therapeutic radiology at Yale School of Medicine. Colonoscopies, beginning at age 50, are considered the gold standard in colon cancer screening, although other techniques, like faecal occult blood testing, can detect some cancers.

Using data from the National Cancer Institute from 1976 to 2009, Dr Yu and his colleagues at Yale found that the incidence of late-stage cancer among people over 50 fell from 118 cases per 1,00,000 people to 74 cases. And for early stage cancers, the rate dropped from 77 cases per 1,00,000 people to 67.

During that period, colorectal screening rates nearly doubled among people 50 and older. The study, published in Cancer, found that there was a particularly significant decline in cancers of the left colon, the cancers most easily detected by screening.

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