Screening has played a “critical” role in reducing bowel cancer cases, reveals new research.
The incidence of the potentially fatal illness has decreased by up to 15 percent following the introduction of the English Bowel Cancer Screening Programme (BCSP) in 2006, according to the findings.
The study, published in the journal Colorectal Disease, also shows that the most pronounced reductions in incidence were in men and in patients living in England’s poorest areas.
Bowel cancer claimed the life of fundraiser Dame Deborah James last year, at the age of 40, while BBC newsreader George Alagiah succumbed to it, aged 67, last month.
Every 15 minutes, someone in the UK is diagnosed with bowel cancer.
The new study, jointly led by researchers from the University of Bristol and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, investigated the impact of the BCSP on incidence rates of bowel cancer among adults in England.
Following its introduction in 2006, the program was expanded in 2010 to offer screenings to all adults aged 60 to 74 registered with a GP in England.
As part of the program, adults in that age group are automatically sent an NHS bowel cancer screening kit every two years.
The age to start screening is currently being reduced with the NHS Long Term Plan committed to lowering the age threshold to 50 by 2025.
Using data from the National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service database, the researchers identified more than 540,000 adults diagnosed with bowel cancer of screening age between 2001 and 2017.
Of those, 44 percent of patients had tumors of the uppermost portion of the large bowel and 56 percent had tumors of the lowermost portion.
While the incidence rate of bowel cancer initially peaked in the years following the introduction of the BCSP, the research team said it subsequently decreased with the greatest reduction in incidence being observed in tumors of the lowermost portion of the large bowel.
In 2001, the incidence of tumors of the lowermost portion of bowel was 11 percent higher in patients from the most deprived compared to the least deprived areas, reducing to four percent by 2017.
A greater reduction was seen among men than women over the period of the study for tumors of both the uppermost and lowermost portions of the large bowel.
Study co-lead author Dr. Adam Chambers said: “Our results show that one of the benefits of screening people for bowel cancer is that there is a significant lowering of colorectal cancer incidence rates that is primarily driven by detecting and removing pre-cancerous polyps at colonoscopy.”
Dr. Chambers, of the University of Bristol, added: “Future work should be focused on reducing the incidence of tumors of the uppermost portion of the large bowel by increasing screening uptake through use of the new fecal immunohistochemical test (FIT) and improving the quality of colonoscopy.
“We welcome the reduction in the screening age threshold, as our research group has previously demonstrated that bowel cancer incidence is rapidly increasing in young adults.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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