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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 continued...

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.

Other major findings:

  • About 22 million people in the U.S. between 50 and 75 have never been screened for colorectal cancer. The CDC says this needs to change and that innovative programs could and should be developed to make screenings available, affordable, and routine for all adults between 50 and 75. Also, screenings should be promoted more by doctors.
  • About 50% of the improvement in mortality can be attributed to increased screening, 35% to reductions in risk factors such as smoking and obesity, and 12% can be attributed to improvement treatments.

Despite growing evidence that screening procedures can save lives, not enough Americans are getting screened, the CDC says. Frieden says the “largest risk factor for not being screened is doctors not recommending that patients be screened.”

Findings were published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for July 5, 2011.

The CDC says if the Healthy People 2020 target for colorectal screening to 70.5% is met, about 1,000 additional deaths per year can be avoided.

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