Reuters Health, via Yahoo News, reported last evening on the results of new studies, both appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, that confirm both the long term benefits and reduced death rates from regular colon cancer screenings.
According to one study, the risk of death from colorectal cancer was reduced up to 32 percent when testing for blood in the stool on a regular basis. Another study concluded that having a colonoscopy reduced risks by 68 percent. Colonoscopy, a test where doctors look inside the colon and, in some cases, remove abnormal growths, does not need to be repeated for up to 10 years if no growths are found.
The Minnesota Colon Cancer Control Study, led by Dr. Aasma Shankat, evaluated the testing for blood by evaluating the records of 46,551 participants who were followed for 30 years. Individuals were screened for fecal blood annually, every two years or not at all. The findings showed that individuals who received annual screening at the beginning of the study ultimately exhibited a 32 percent reduction of their risk for dying from colorectal cancer. Individuals who were tested every two years had a reduced risk rate of 22 percent. Over the study's 30 year span, 732 of the 33,020 deaths were from colorectal cancer.
Dr. Shankat said, "You would expect to see a decrease in the risk of dying of colon cancer in the first eight to 10 years. The fact that the effect was sustained through 30 years is actually fairly remarkable. It shows that the effect of colon cancer screening is profound."
Dr. Greg Enders, gastroenterologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, who was not connected to either study, said, "There studies don't break new ground, but they put us on more solid footing in recommending colorectal cancer screening by the current methods and, in general, at the current intervals."
The United States Preventative Service Task Force recommends 'individuals between the ages of 50 and 75 get screened by colonoscopy every 10 years, with a high-sensitivity fecal occult blood test every year or with a sigmoidoscopy every five years in addition to fecal occult blood testing every three years.'
According to the World Health Organization, colorectal cancer kills over 600,000 people worldwide each year. The American Cancer Society has estimated that the United States has approximately 50,800 deaths each year attributed to colorectal cancer, with approximately 142,800 newly diagnosed cases annually; a rate that is in decline because of regular screenings.