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Colorectal Cancer Health Center

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Screenings Cut Colon Cancer Death Rate

Screenings Credited With Helping Reduce Colon Cancer Incidence, Death Rates in Recent Years

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.

Frieden says in a media briefing that he had a colonoscopy at age 40 and no polyps were found, but that four were discovered and removed 10 years later.

Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD, clinical associate professor of medicine at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, tells WebMD that people with average risk for the disease should be screened with a colonoscopy every 10 years, starting at age 50.

“If you have a family history of colon cancer or if you have history of tubular adenoma, a type of polyp, or other condition that predisposes you to colon cancer, like ulcerative colitis, you should be screened more frequently,” she says.

The CDC report used survey data from 2002-2010 from the state level Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System that asked about colorectal cancer screening of people aged 50 to 75. Frieden and authors of the new report stress that screening should be increased, and that more screenings would save more lives.

Major Findings of Study

“Colon cancer deaths are down significantly,” Frieden says in a the briefing, “and even more progress is possible. We have seen a remarkable increase in the level of screening.”

Key findings of the report include that:

  • Death rates from colorectal cancer between 2003 and 2007 decreased significantly in 49 states and Washington, D.C., with the largest declines in states with some of the highest screening prevalence. Nationally, death rates decreased 3% per year in that same time period.
  • In 2007, Washington, D.C. reported the highest death rate from colorectal cancer per 100,000 people, 21.1, compared to Montana and Colorado with the lowest at 14.1.
  • Colorectal cancer incidence rates declined significantly in 35 states between 2003 and 2007. In 2007, the highest number of new colorectal cancer cases was reported in North Dakota, where it was 56.9 per 100,000, and lowest in Utah, at 34.3 per 100,000. Overall incidence rates decreased by 3.4% per year from 2003 to 2007.

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