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Screenings Cut Colon Cancer Death Rate

Screenings Credited With Helping Reduce Colon Cancer Incidence, Death Rates in Recent Years
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 5, 2011 -- New diagnoses of colorectal cancer as well as deaths from the disease have declined dramatically in recent years, thanks in part to greater emphasis on screening procedures, a government report says.

Colorectal cancer is the second most deadly cancer, but it could fall from that position if more people were screened, the CDC says in a new Vital Signs report.

Disease incidence declined significantly from 2003 to 2007 in 35 states, the CDC says, and mortality dropped in 49 states as well as in Washington, D.C.

The rate of new cases of colorectal cancer fell from 52.3 per 100,000 in 2003 to 45.5 in 2007, the CDC says, resulting in nearly 66,000 fewer new cases of cancer in 2003-2007 compared to 2002. The disease’s death rate dropped from 19 per 100,000 in 2003 to 16.7 in 2007, meaning almost 32,000 fewer people died than expected during the period, compared with 2002.

Screenings on the Increase

Between 2002 and 2010, the percentage of people between 50 and 75 who were adequately screened for colorectal cancer increased from 52.3% to 65.4%, says the CDC. But one in three people 50-75 are not up to date with recommended screenings.

Colon cancer be prevented, and we are making progress in getting more people screened,” CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, says in a news release. “Those who receive these life-saving screening tests can lead longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Saving our nation the health care costs associated with treating colon cancer is an additional benefit.”

The new report estimates that direct medical costs of colorectal cancer was $14 billion in 2010 and says that for every person who died of the disease in 2006, the lost productivity costs were $15.3 billion, or about $288,468 per person who died from colorectal cancer in 2006.

The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends colon screenings for people starting at age 50, and also that routine screening should continue until age 75.

Various Screening Methods

There are various ways to screen, including fecal occult blood testing, which checks for hidden blood in the stool and samples should be done annually. Other methods are sigmoidoscopy, in which an instrument is snaked through the rectum and lower portion of the colon to look for abnormalities.

In colonoscopy, doctors can use a similar instrument to visualize the entire length of the colon. It can also be used for biopsy and removal of polyps.

The USPSTF recommends this procedure be done every 10 years starting at age 50 until age 75. People with a higher risk of developing colorectal cancer (such as those with inflammatory bowel disease, certain genetic disorders, a personal history of polyps, or close family history of polyps or colorectal cancer) should start screening at a younger age and screening may be more frequent.

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